Exit polls for the vote in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern gave Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats just 24 per cent of the vote, down from the 28 per cent they garnered in the last vote in 2006. Adding to her woe was the performance of the Free Democrats, her coalition allies, who could be wiped out of the regional assembly, with just 3.6 per cent of the vote.

The German chancellor appears to have been punished for her handling of the eurozone crisis. Discontent in Germany has simmered over the country footing most of the bill of the eurozone bailouts, and Mrs Merkel’s reputation for firm and decisive action has been eroded by her handling of the situation.

If the results stand, the Christian Democrats face the unpleasant possibility of being ousted from their current state coalition with the Social Democrats. Exit polls gave the left-wing party 37.7 per cent, and it could decide to strike an alliance with the Left Party or the Greens instead of maintaining the coalition.

To lose on her home turf will come as an acute embarrassment to Mrs Merkel.

She made nine visits to the state of 1.4 million people in the lead up to the election, and the defeat will raise question marks over her credibility and leadership.