An exit poll by German broadcaster ARD shows Ms Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) came first with 28 percent of the vote – a huge drop from the 38.3 percent it received in 2013.
The Chancellor’s junior coalition partner, the SPD, won 20 percent – down from 30.7 percent from 2013 election.
And just an hour after the poll revealed support for the SPD has plummeted, the party announced it would consider its future as part of Ms Merkel’s government next year.
Meanwhile, opposition parties appear to have made huge gains.
The ecologist Greens narrowly missed out on second place with 19.5 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll.
And the far-right AfD looks set to enter the Hesse regional government for the first time after securing 12 percent of the vote.
The result means the anti-immigration party, which entered the federal parliament for the first time last year, is now also represented in all 16 German regional assemblies.
The regional government in Hesse, which includes the financial hub of Frankfurt, is currently controlled by a coalition of Ms Merkel’s CDU and the Greens, and the exit poll results suggest the two parties can continue governing.
But the preliminary results will pile pressure on the Chancellor’s ‘grand coalition’ in Berlin, which is made up of the CDU, its Bavarian sister party the CSU, and the centre-left SPD.
The reluctant alliance was formed after months of failed talks and its stability has been tested after a series of public rows between high-level figures in recent months.
Volker Bouffier, the incumbent CDU state premier in Hesse and a Merkel ally, acknowledged the government infighting had dented support for the party.
He told supporters: “We are in pain because of the losses but we also learnt that it is worth it to fight.
“The message to the parties ruling in Berlin is: People want fewer disputes and more focus on the important issues.”
The Hesse election comes at a time when a growing number of SPD members are calling for the party to pull out of the coalition, distance itself from Ms Merkel and reinvent itself as an opposition group.
Such a move would likely cause the collapse of the fragile coalition in Berlin and spark fresh federal elections.
But following the exit poll results in Hesse, the SPD leader announced the party will draw up a “roadmap” to determine whether it should remain part of Ms Merkel’s government.
Andrea Nahles said: “We could then gauge the implementation of this roadmap at the agreed mid-term review, when we would be able to clearly see if this government is the right place for us.”
Source : EXPRESS