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BERLIN-Germany's governing parties lost significant support in a state election Sunday that was marked by discontent with infighting in Chancellor Angela Merkel's national government and prompted calls for her administration to get its act together quickly.

Hesse's election has mirrored the Bavarian state vote, held just two weeks ago, which brought big gains for the Greens and AfD, but dealt a sensitive blow to the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), as well as the SPD.

This position has allowed the so-called grand coalition which presently rules Germany, an alliance between the main centre-right CDU and main centre-left SPD, from parties which should, in theory, be opposed on government but are united in keeping other voices out of power.

Andrea Nahles, the Social Democrats' leader, said that "the state of the government is unacceptable". But in the face of considerable losses in Hesse, it's thought the CDU leadership may have changed her mind.

Party sources said Merkel's favoured successor, CDU party secretary-general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, had announced her candidacy for the party chair. Although there are many months before the next regional poll, a vote touching the chancellor more personally is slated for December, when she must stand for reelection as party chief.

With political weakness at home, Merkel's ability to lead within the European Union will be increasingly limited as German voters lose confidence in the coalition government, further sending the European Union into political disarray as the European bloc now wrangles Brexit with the United Kingdom and a spiralling budget crisis with the Italian government, as well as the continued rise of extremist far-right political grassroots campaigns that have been springing up throughout Europe. But the CDU and ecologist Greens may lack sufficient support to renew their ruling alliance in the state.

According to projections updated around 8pm, Ms. Merkel's CDU remained the strongest party in Hesse.

Being able to keep Bouffier, a deputy CDU leader, as governor will stabilize Merkel in the short term, he said.

She told party top brass her mandate running to 2021 will be "her last term", a party source said, adding that she has no plans to seek a post in the European Commission following that despite speculation to that effect in Brussels.

And Mr. Bouffier, noting that his party fared better in the Hesse vote than it now does in polls nationally, seems keen to stay in power.

Her proposal did little to appease the head of the SPD's youth wing, who said the election in Hesse was a clear signal that the ruling coalition was not viable. And the far-right Alternative for Germany was on course to enter the last of Germany's 16 state parliaments with more than 12 per cent.