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CSU loses 46-year-old absolute majority in Bavaria

Latest update : 2008-09-28

The Christian Social Union, the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU in Bavaria, lost the absolute majority it had been holding since 1962 in a state election Sunday. The unpopularity of its leadership may partly explain the fiasco.

The Bavarian sister party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives suffered a drubbing in a state election Sunday, exit polls showed, losing its decades-old absolute majority.

One year before national elections, the Christian Social Union (CSU) scored about 43 percent of the vote, according to exit poll results broadcast on public television, far below the 60.7 percent it garnered five years ago.

The CSU had held an absolute majority in the parliament of the wealthy southern state since 1962 -- a dominance that experts say was unique in postwar Western Europe.

It will now face the humiliation of seeking a coalition with a smaller party.

The Social Democrats, partners in Merkel's grand coalition government, scored a disappointing 19 percent, nearly unchanged from 19.6 percent in 2003.

But in keeping with a national trend of voters turning their backs on the major parties, the ecologist Greens, the pro-business Free Democrats and the independent Free Voters all saw major gains.

The same size as Ireland, but with an economic output much larger, a third of Germany's 30 blue chip Dax companies -- as well as 48 percent of the country's breweries -- call the "Free State of Bavaria" home, with full employment in many areas and a cosy standard of living.

The reasons for the CSU's fall from grace are many and complex, analysts say.

For one thing, recent policy debacles over issues such as education, a smoking ban and the scrapping of a multi-billion euro (dollar) maglev train link have given the CSU a reputation of clumsiness and has given rise to a feeling that change is needed.

Another is the unpopularity of the current CSU leadership -- the duo of premier Guenther Beckstein and party chief Erwin Huber.

Date created : 2008-09-28