German state vote shows Merkel on track

17 May, 2017, 12:57 | Author: Ora Austin

The CDU has garnered 34.3 percent of the vote in the traditional SPD stronghold of North Rhine-Westphalia, up from 26.3 percent in 2012 state election, according to the early results aired by the public television ARD.

The CDU focused its campaign in NRW on attacking the SPD for failing to tackle local issues like crumbling infrastructure that causes huge traffic jams, rising crime and an underperforming education system.

Party leader Martin Schulz had predicted a victory there would make him the next German chancellor - but the victory for Mrs Merkel's party will now give her a boost as she seeks a fourth term. "I hope, of course, that we will be ahead in the evening", he said.

Relatives of top candidate Armin Laschet celebrate at the election party of the Christian Democratic Union after the state election in North Rhine-Westphalia.

On Mr Jaeger's watch, Cologne also became the scene of mass sexual assaults by groups of mostly North African men on New Year's Eve of 2015-2016, inflaming the debate over the 890,000 asylum seekers Germany welcomed in 2015. And CDU officials privately describe one of her great advantages over her rival as her "Champions League" factor.

The nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has no coalition allies, won 7.5 per cent.

The SPD fell to 30.5 percent from 39.1 percent.

Schulz left his position as president of the European Parliament in January to challenge Merkel.

But Schulz's message of social justice has lost its appeal among voters as he has yet to spell out details of his plans and how much they would cost. The two parties now rule together nationally in a "grand coalition".

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The business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), looking to re-enter the German parliament this fall, came in third in NRW, taking 12.6 percent of the vote, a significant increase compared to 2012.

But surveys ahead of the vote show the centre-left party running neck-and-neck with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, with some even placing the CDU ahead.

They would be hoping to replicate those results at the national level.

The SPD had already suffered two setbacks since Schulz took over, with the CDU scoring strong victories in the small states of Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein.

In 1995, the region came under the rule of a coalition of SPD and SPD-Greens which then managed to seize the popular vote from Chancellor Hemut Kohl, the prime figure of Germany's reunification.

"His immediate task now will be to relaunch the so-far exclusively personality-driven SPD campaign for the Bundestag elections; the party immediately needs to start focusing on policies to widen the SPD's appeal beyond its core electorate".

"She is an unworthy chancellor", Kraft told the broadcaster WDR in response to Merkel's criticism.

"The regional polls have vindicated Merkel's decision to keep calm in the face of the 2015 migration crisis and the hard election year 2016", he said.

The SPD had been ailing nationwide but saw a surge in support in February when Schulz took over.

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