Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Germany: Merkel's CDU wins regional elections in most populous state

Laurie Berry | 17 May, 2017, 20:32

It is home to 17.9 million people, almost a quarter of Germany's population, and is also the home state of Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic challenger seeking to deny Mrs Merkel a fourth term in the national election on September 24.

They lost three out of three.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a major blow to her rival center-left Social Democrats after her conservative party won a state election in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Sunday.

The Christian Democratic Union's victory in North Rhine-Westphalia, home to more than a fifth of German voters, is a resounding confirmation for Merkel, 62.

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

Merkel's party was thought to have been losing relevance in recent years after suffering defeat in several state elections, prompting commentators to anticipate a shift towards non-traditional parties, as seen with the rise in populism in 2016. She visited North Rhine-Westphalia eight times prior to the vote and has put homeland security at the centre of campaign in a bid to attract public backing as the country faces continued security threats.

She added that "the big issue of security" will also be an important election theme.

Just a few months ago, their regional candidate Armin Laschet was the underdog.

"(Germans) are going back to what they know best and against populism ...

UN Condemns Latest North Korean Ballistic Missile Test
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That has already happened twice on national level in Germany - the current Merkel cabinet is made up of this partnership. Many believe the results indicate Merkel will cruise toward a fourth term in office as SPD has slipped in polls after holding the lead in February.

Well-aware of the power of those images - a strong, assertive leader holding her own in the world - Merkel recently met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman (sans headscarf) to press him on women's rights.

In the state's last election in 2012, the Social Democrats beat the CDU by 39.1 percent to 26.3 percent.

Schulz allies sought to take comfort in the fact that the defeat of North Rhine-Westphalia's Social Democratic governor, Hannelore Kraft, was unexpected until recently.

On Monday, top officials are meeting in Berlin to discuss the road ahead.

Marcus Pretzell, the AfD's regional head, celebrated what he called "a real punch to the nose" for Kraft and hailed the Green party's low result as well.

She had urged voters to look at her government's economic record, noting that with 7.5 per cent unemployment, the state fares worse than the national rate of 5.8 per cent.

Merkel wasn't the only clear victor of Sunday's vote.

Yesterday, Merkel's CDU won a regional election in Germany's most populous state, her third state election win in a row. In the past, the balance of political forces in North Rhine - Westphalia has become a model for the Central government.

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