Merkel Poised for Election Boost From Vote in Bavaria

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s sister party was set to win a majority in Bavarian state elections, giving the incumbent a boost as she heads into the final week of her campaign before a national vote.

Merkel’s Christian Social Union sister party took 49 percent, regaining sole control of the country’s second-most populous state, according ZDF television projections based on partially counted ballots. Led by Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, the CSU rebounded from 2008 when its worst result in more than 50 years forced it into coalition with the Free Democrats. The FDP, Merkel’s national coalition partner, won 3 percent, below the 5 percent hurdle required to win seats in parliament.

“This gives us the necessary momentum for the last week of campaigning,” Michael Grosse-Broemer, the chief whip of Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc in the Berlin parliament, said in a ZDF interview.

Bavaria is a bellwether for the Sept. 22 federal vote, with the CSU majority lending Merkel momentum against her Social Democrat challenger, Peer Steinbrueck. Merkel is due to hold a rally on Sept. 20 in the state capital Munich that will be her eighth speech in Bavaria since July, underlining the region’s importance to her bid for a third term.

The opposition Social Democrats took 20.7 percent, while their Green party allies had 8.5 percent. The Free Voters, who want Greece to exit the euro, oppose euro-area bailouts and want to trim the power of the European Union, also won 8.5 percent, the ZDF projection showed. Preliminary final results are published about 11 p.m.

Merkel Leads

Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc dropped by a percentage point in Emnid and INSA national polls published today to 39 percent and 38 percent respectively. The SPD under Steinbrueck gained a point to 26 percent in the Emnid poll and dropped a point to 27 percent in the INSA poll. The Greens lost a point, falling to 10 percent in the Emnid poll and were unchanged at 11 percent according to INSA. The Free Democrats, with whom Merkel wants to ally again after Sept. 22, were unchanged in both polls with Emnid giving them 5 percent and INSA 4 percent.

This “was a painful defeat in Bavaria,” said FDP chairman, Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Philipp Roesler in a press conference on N-TV.

The election ambitions of Merkel and Seehofer are aided by Bavaria’s economic performance. Home to BMW-maker Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, engineering giant Siemens AG and insurer Allianz SE, the state’s gross domestic product last year was about $619 billion, bigger than the output of Poland or Austria.

Munich-based BMW’s share price is 131 percent higher now than on Sept. 27, 2009, the last federal election date, compared with a 49 percent rise in the benchmark DAX Index.

Youth Jobs

“What really makes me happy is that we have eliminated youth unemployment,” Seehofer said before the vote. Bavaria’s unemployment rate is 3.8 percent compared with 6.8 percent nationally in Germany.

The CSU was founded as a separate Christian Democratic movement in Bavaria after the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. Merkel’s CDU was also founded in 1945 in the rest of what became West Germany under Konrad Adenauer, who became West Germany’s first postwar chancellor in 1949.

The CDU doesn’t contest Bavarian ballots while the CSU only puts up candidates in its home state, their votes counting together in federal elections. The CSU has three of the 16 posts in Merkel’s cabinet: currently transport, agriculture and interior affairs.

Free State

Bavaria, legally called the “Free State of Bavaria,” has always considered itself a place apart from the rest of Germany. “Mia san mia,” is a favorite saying of regional patriots that translates literally as “we are who we are,” though is more usually taken to mean “don’t mess with Bavaria.”

Seehofer hasn’t shied away from conflict with Merkel in pressing his party’s proposal for an autobahn car toll to help pay for German highway repairs. Merkel has remained firm in opposing the plan while indicating that she’s open to discussing the CSU’s two other main campaign goals: the introduction of regional rates of inheritance tax and national referendums on key decisions affecting the European Union’s future.

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