Germany’s Christian Social Union (CSU) lost its absolute majority in the southern state of Bavaria, taking just 37,2% of the vote in the October 14 regional election. The Greens took second place with at least 17.5% of the vote.

The right-leaning Free Voters came in third place with 11.5% and the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party with 10,2%. As for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), took 9.7%.

As reported by German media, initial estimates suggest the CSU will have 85 of the 192 to 200 total seats in regional parliament, far short of the party’s previous absolute majority (101 seats won in the 2013 vote).

As for the other parties the Greens will hold 38 seats (compared to 18), Free Voters 27 (compared to 19), the SPD 22 (compared to 42), the AfD 22 and the FDP 11.

“Of course it’s not easy to separate ourselves from what’s going on nationally,” a noticeably sombre Bavarian state premier Markus Söder said after the results were announced. “The main priority is to form a stable government for Bayern as quickly as possible, and we accept that task.”

The CSU will need a partner to form a government. This could be a two-party partnership with the left-leaning Greens, although both sides of that agreement have expressed reservations about such an arrangement.

According to DW, a more conservative option would be a deal with the Free Voters and perhaps the FDP – Söder strongly hinted that this was his preference. The CSU has ruled out any partnerships with the AfD. Official results will be published later by October 15.

The Greens more than doubled their share of the votes on October 14, compared to the 2013 Bavarian election. With the environmentalists also leading the government coalition in neighbouring Baden-Württemberg, they can now legitimately claim to be the preeminent political force on the left in Southern Germany.

“We wanted to finally get a two-digit result in Bavaria – thank you so much,” Katharina Schulze, the co-leader of the Bavarian Greens, said at the party’s post election celebration. “This result has already changed Bavaria.”

In a separate report, the BBC noted that the CSU, which is Angela Merkel’s sister party, has ruled Bavaria almost single-handedly since 1957, but has lost support as opinion becomes polarised over issues like migration.

The BBC also noted that election result illustrates the complexity of the challenge faced by so many of Europe’s large established parties. And the poll is viewed as a serious setback for Merkel, just months after she formed a fragile coalition with the CSU and SPD.