A key ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel lost
its absolute majority in Bavaria as voters defected to smaller parties,
according to exit polls from Sunday's state election, dpa reported.
Projections showed the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), polling around 43 per cent of the vote in its worst showing in half-a-century.
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), which governs in a grand coalition with the CDU in Berlin, polled around 19 per cent, roughly the same as in the last state election in 2003.
Among the smaller parties, the conservative Free Voters entered the state parliament in Munich for the first time with 10 per cent and the liberal Free Democrats (FPD) were back after an absence of 14 years with 8.5 per cent.
The environmentalist Greens won 9 per cent, but the pro-Labour Left Party was hovering just below the 5 per cent needed for parliamentary representation.
The outcome signals a weakening of support for the conservative camp that could hurt Merkel's chances of retaining power in federal elections scheduled for September 2009.
At the last elections in 2003 the CSU polled 60.7 per cent of the vote in the strongly Catholic state, where some of Germany's leading companies have their headquarters, including Siemens and BMW.