BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel's party endured a second setback in a state election in two weeks today, as many voters turned to the left and right in Berlin, according to projections based on exit polls.
The Social Democrats (SPD) and Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU) emerged from the Berlin state election as the strongest two parties, but both lost enough support that they won't be able to continue a coalition government, the projections show.
The SPD won 22.8 per cent of the vote, dropping 5.5 per cent, while the CDU won 17.8 per cent, down 5.6 per cent, ARD public television reported.
At the same time, the anti-capitalist Left Party gained 4.5 per cent to 16.2 per cent overall and new nationalist anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, known as the AfD, easily entered its 10th state parliament with 12.2 per cent of the vote.
The vote comes two weeks after Merkel's CDU was beaten into third place in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania by the AfD, and today's showing her party's worst ever in the capital will keep up the pressure on the chancellor a year ahead of national elections.
However, it was largely local issues that drove the vote in the city of 3.5 million, however. Disillusionment is high over the capital's notoriously inefficient bureaucracy and issues such as years of delays in opening its new airport.
Peter Tauber, the Christian Democrats' general secretary, blamed Social Democratic Mayor Michael Mueller for turning voters against the two governing parties, saying "the fish stinks from the head."
Mueller, however, said after the results that "We have achieved our goal."
"We are the strongest political party and we have a mandate to form a government," he said.
With the AfD's strong showing, national party co-chairman Joerg Meuthen said his party was strongly positioned for next year's national elections.
"We are firmly convinced that we will end next year with a double-digit result," he said.
Sigmar Gabriel, the national head of the Social Democrats, which govern in a coalition with Merkel's Christian Democrats, said "we don't find it good" that the AfD will now be represented in the city-state of Berlin's parliament.
"But almost 90 per cent of voters did not vote for them, and that's also important," he said.
Without enough support for the governing SPD-CDU "grand coalition" to continue, the most likely new governing alliance appeared to be a combination of the SPD, Greens, which won 16.4 per cent, and Left party.