The ruling Christian Social Union lost its majority in the Bavarian state parliament on Sunday in an election that is likely to rattle German Chancellor Angela Merkel's fragile "grand coalition" government.
The Christian Social Union, or CSU – the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's conservative Christian Democrat Union, or CDU – has dominated politics in the state since the end of World War II, ruling for all but three years over the course of nearly seven decades.
But that changed on Sunday. The CSU got only 37.2 percent of the vote and fringe parties won a huge boost, according to preliminary official results released by the Bavarian State Office of Statistics.
The pro-immigration, environmentalist Greens ran in second place with 17.5 percent, increasing their support, while the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Deutschland party, or AfD, took 10.2 percent of the vote, giving it seats in parliament for the first time.
The election will shake up the 18th Bavarian state parliament, which will now have a total of 205 seats. The CSU will hold 85 seats (compared to 101 seats won in the 2013 vote), the Greens 38 seats (compared to 18), Free Voters 27 (compared to 19), the SPD 22 (compared to 42), the AfD 22 and the FDP 11.
Bavaria bore the brunt of the 2015 refugee crisis; at its peak, thousands of asylum seekers were crossing into the state every day. Since then, both Merkel and her CSU allies have been criticized for their management of the influx.
"This is a difficult situation for the CSU," Interior Minister and CSU party head Horst Seehofer said Monday, acknowledging that his party would need to find a coalition partner in Bavaria.
CSU State Premier Markus Soeder had ruled out a coalition with the AfD in the run-up to the election and Seehofer made the same pledge Monday.
The outcome is likely to have an impact on Merkel's coalition government, which took four months to form through difficult negotiations and has come close to imploding over migration issues and a scandal involving the country's spy chief.
Merkel, now serving her fourth term, could find herself fighting to keep her job as party chair when the CDU holds its annual congress in December. To ward off a mutiny in her coalition, she may be pressured to shake up her cabinet before the congress.
The CDU has accused CSU members of pandering to far-right sentiments to prevent losing supporters to the anti-migrant AfD, in publicized infighting that has tarnished the image of the two parties.
Bavaria appears to have followed electoral trends in other parts of Europe. Populist anti-migrant parties across the region have splintered traditional support bases on the left and right, leading to fractured election outcomes and more coalition governments.