Germany was also seen as wavering on punishing Russia over the invasion. Fellow members of the European Union said Germany was trying to block decisions to boycott Russian energy imports, on which Germans are heavily dependent.
Mr. Scholz was also criticized for sending his foreign minister on a state visit to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, instead of going himself.
A recent poll found that nearly two-thirds of Germans do not consider Mr. Scholz a strong leader, and from respected broadsheets to Germany’s noisy tabloid Bild, commentators took the result of Sunday’s election as a damning verdict on Mr. Scholz’s first six months in office. A headline in the Süddeutsche Zeitung called the outcome “a vote of no confidence against the chancellor,” while Bild called it “a historic slap.”
Voter unease seems not to have hurt one of Mr. Scholz’s coalition partners, the Greens. On Sunday, they were the big winners in terms of numbers gained over the last election, bettering their performance in 2017 by nearly 12 percentage points. Mr. Scholz’s two most popular ministers are Green party members who appear to be pushing for much of the popular Ukraine policy within the government coalition. One of them, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, traveled to Kyiv last week.
The Free Democratic Party, the third coalition partner in the federal government, did not do well at the polls, claiming less than 6 percent of the state’s votes.
At 56 percent, voter participation was unusually low for a state election in Germany.
“It’s a test of people’s mood, which just shows what people think about the government’s work at the moment,” said Professor Jun.
Voters handed the Christian Democratic Union, which lost the federal election after Chancellor Angela Merkel retired, an important win. It keeps conservatives in power in the industrial west, the former heartland of the Social Democrats, but it could signal a changing tide as voters go to polls in several other big state elections in the coming years.