In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has suffered losses in regional elections in three states.
Exit polls show the Christian Democrat CDU – which has ruled for a decade – suffered a huge setback
just one month before Merkel seeks re-election in a federal vote.
In the state of Saarland on the French border and in Thuringia in the ex-communist east, the CDU saw its support slump to 34.5 per cent and 32.5 per cent, respectively and is in danger of being unseated by leftists coalitions.
In a third regional vote in the eastern state of Saxony, Merkel’s party looks poised to retain power, as expected.
The three state elections were seen as key tests of sentiment in the run-up to the federal vote on September 27.
Merkel’s conservatives hold a comfortable 12-15 point lead in national polls over their main rivals, the centre-left Social Democrats, or SPD and a weekend opinion poll showed 87 per cent of Germans expected her to win a second term.
But the SPD could get a boost from the state votes and any erosion in support for Merkel over the coming weeks might endanger her hopes of sealing a centre-right government with the business-friendly Free Democrats, the FDP next month.