Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats have suffered huge losses on Sunday in regional elections in the central German state of Hesse.
Projections by public broadcaster ARD showed Christian Democratic Union (CDU) could only manage to win 27.8 percent of the vote, a significant fall from the 38.3 percent the party scored in the last election five years ago.
It was the worst result of Christian Democrats in Hesse since 1970, and is expected to spark a debate within the party on the political future of Merkel.
The center-left Social Democrats (SPD) also suffered heavy losses on Sunday, drawing 19.5 percent of the vote, down by more than 11 percentage points from the last election in 2013.
The environmentalist, pro-immigration Green Party did the best by scoring a record 19.5 percent, up from 11.1 percent in the last election.
Projections showed the Islamophobic, far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) winning 12.5 percent of the vote, thereby entering the Parliament of the State of Hesse for the first time.
Hesse’s premier and CDU’s top candidate Volker Bouffier stressed on Sunday night that despite their huge losses, Christian Democrats remained the biggest party in the central German state.
“We have not seen such an election campaign before. It was mainly overshadowed by Berlin,” he said, referring to quarrels that have rocked Merkel's coalition government in recent months.
“The message of the electorate has been clear : Less quarrel, more work,” he said.
Bouffier said CDU would hold talks with all parties, except for the far-right AfD and the socialist Die Linke, to form a coalition government.
The CDU apparently has two major options, either a coalition government with the Green Party, or a three-party coalition involving both the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).
The FDP managed to win 7.9 percent, up from 5 percent in the last election.