The CDU is likely to have remained the largest party in Schleswig-Holstein, a rural state of 2.8 million, with around 30 percent, down slightly from the last election but narrowly ahead of the center-left Social Democratic Party, which increased its vote by almost five points.
Center-Left Alliance With Danish Minority Party Seen Likely
The result would give both parties 22 seats in the 69-seat assembly and opens up a range of coalition options. The most likely is seen as an alliance between the Greens, the SPD and the South Schleswig Party, representing the state's Danish minority.
"This is our goal," SPD candidate Torsten Albig told German television on Sunday night. "If that doesn't work we'll see what other coalitions are possible."
The Greens saw their support rise by around 1 percent to just over 13 percent, while the Pirate Party, which appeals to young, Internet-savvy voters, scored over 8 percent -- it's third strong showing following surprise gains in the Berlin city-state election last September and the Saarland election in March.
The CDU could still end up leading a Schleswig-Holstein government, for example if it forms a so-called "grand coalition" with the SPD, or a three-way alliance with the Greens and FDP. It will take weeks of talks before a new coalition is formed.
Intellpuke: This article is a compilation of reporting by Spiegel journalists and various news agencies; you can read it in context here: www.spiegel.de/international/germany/merkel-s-party-suffers-setback-in-german-state-election-a-831656.html