Published: Wed, May 17, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

Election in Germany's most populous state could boost Merkel


Merkel, who has been in power in Germany since 2005, is nearing the end of her third four-year government term. Publicly, they'll likely try to dismiss this as a purely regional vote on regional issues - the party's top regional candidate, Hannelore Kraft, announced she would step down from the party leadership - but there seems to be a near-consensus that Schulz' campaign needs an overhaul.

In 2005-2009, Merkel also ruled in a grand right-left coalition with the SPD, while in 2009-2013, she relied on the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) for running another coalition Cabinet.

Over 13 million of NRW's 18 million residents are eligible to vote in Sunday's election - the most registered voters than any other German state.

The projections put support for the pro-business Free Democrats, who are eyeing a return to the national parliament at September, at a strong 12%.

The nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) won 7.5 percent.

They give the Greens - the junior coalition partners in the outgoing state government, only 6 percent, meaning that the coalition would lose its majority.

Meanwhile, the Left Party (Die Linke) may fail to enter the state parliament, being on the edge of the 5% threshold.

Voters were choosing candidates for the state legislature, whose leadership may now change from its current SPD-Green coalition.

Voters in North Rhine-Westphalia yesterday handed Schulz's SPD just 31.2 per cent, sharply less than the 39.1 per cent it garnered five years ago, final results showed.

North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous among the German states with almost 18 million residents accounting for 20 percent of Germany's population.

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But poor showings in two previous state elections since then had already punctured the party's euphoria over Schulz's nomination.

"I gave it my best".

"We will do everything not only to help France but also to shape the European path with France", Merkel said in the city of Aachen near the border with Belgium.

"This was a committed election, but it wasn't enough".

SPD leader Martin Schulz admitted that the loss in his home state marked a "difficult day for the SPD" and for him personally, but urged supporters to battle on. "I hail from the state where we just suffered a crushing election defeat", Schulz stated.

SPD deputy chief Ralf Stegner called it a "very dark day for the SPD" but said the game is not over. The party - whose national leader, Christian Lindner, led its election effort in North Rhine-Westphalia - has tended to ally with Merkel's conservatives over recent decades.

Macron holds talks with Merkel in Berlin on Monday, a day after his inauguration, with the aim of stressing the importance of the relationship with Germany to relaunching the European project.

Here are three takeaways from the North Rhine-Westphalia election.

Yesterday's result could now pave the way for the state's first ever coalition between the CDU and the SPD under the 56-year-old Laschet.

The CDU won 33 per cent, up from 26.3 per cent in 2012, according to projections on public broadcaster ARD.

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