BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies scored a resounding win in a state vote Sunday, estimates showed, giving her a strong boost one week ahead of a general election.
The conservative ruling Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats, captured an absolute majority of seats in the regional parliament with 49-percent of the vote, according to preliminary results on public television.
Its outsized victory means it can drop its junior partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), who crashed out of the regional parliament with a disastrous three percent.
"This is a beautiful day for the CSU," federal agriculture minister Ilse Aigner, a leading member of the party, told public broadcaster ARD.
Merkel campaigned heavily in the state's world-famous beer tents, pointing out that a big win in Bavaria would lend momentum to her bid for a third term at the helm of Europe's top economic power.
National polls give Merkel's conservatives an around 14-point lead over the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD), who scored about 21 percent in Bavaria, historically a conservative state.
An SPD leader, Andrea Nahles, put a positive shine on the result.
"We are the only opposition party that made gains," she told reporters.
"I think we have a very exciting week ahead of ourselves. We've shown that we were able to make some progress in recent days."
The ecologist Greens turned in a dismal 8.5 percent, in keeping with a downward trend on the national level.
The CSU has ruled Bavaria uninterrupted for 56 years with a winning strategy of "laptops and lederhosen" -- high-tech business savvy coupled with proud tradition.
Led by outspoken state premier Horst Seehofer, the CSU saw big gains from its 43 percent score at the last election in 2008, when it lost its absolute majority.
Some 9.5 million were eligible to vote in the wealthy, predominantly Catholic southern region that is home to industrial giants such as BMW, Audi and Siemens.
Bavaria is a regional powerhouse in a country that has gone from strength to strength as the eurozone debt crisis ravaged its neighbours.
State unemployment is just 3.8 percent compared to 6.8 percent at the national level and the CSU forecasts statistical full employment by 2018, giving Bavarian voters little appetite for change.
The state shares that sentiment with much of the rest of the German electorate, a majority of whom tell pollsters they are satisfied with Merkel's leadership.
Pollsters said the poor showing in Bavaria by the FDP, Merkel's coalition partner in Berlin, could in fact give it a boost in the September 22 general election.
Voters who would like to see the Merkel alliance continue and who are concerned about the FDP's weakness might now want to give votes to the party, weakening the conservatives' own score.
FPD leader Philipp Roesler called the result a "bitter defeat".
"But it shows now is the time to fight, dear friends," he said to cheers from party supporters in Berlin.
"This is a wake-up call for all liberals in Germany."
But if Germany's current centre-right government fails to clinch a majority at the national level, the SPD could be called to form a left-right "grand coalition" under Merkel -- the same alliance she led during her first, 2005-09 term.
Beyond its role in Bavaria, the CSU is also the third member of Merkel's ruling coalition in Berlin.
Analysts noted that a strong win in Bavaria followed by a robust turnout for the national vote could increase its clout in a reloaded Merkel government, leading it to push more of its pet projects such as introducing roadway tolls.