Elections in the German state of Saarland on March 25 have dealt a heavy blow to the federal coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) retained its 12-year hold on power, holding steady at 35.2% of the small state’s voters. But Merkel's allies at a federal level - the neoliberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) - were wiped out at the state polls.
The FDP’s share of the vote dropped from 9.2% in 2009 to a tiny 1.2%, well below the 5% required to enter parliament.
Nationally, the FDP is polling at barely 3% - down from a high of 14.6% at the last federal elections. It was booted out of five state parliaments last year, a trend that seems set to continue.
The centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) increased its vote by 6% to 30.6% - not enough to dislodge the CDU from government, but enough to force it into a power-sharing “grand coalition”.
The vote for the anti-capitalist party Die Linke (“The Left”) dropped from 21% to only 16.1%, giving it 17 seats in parliament.
This relatively poor result came despite Saarland being home to Die Linke’s popular and outspoken former leader Oskar Lafontaine, once dubbed “the shadow Chancellor” for his ability to influence German politics.