Angela Merkel's party win a reality check for German left
Mar 31, 2017, 01:55
With six months to go before the federal election on September 24, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party won 40.7 percent of the vote in the Saarland state parliament, an improvement on the 35.2 percent achieved in the 2012 election.
The CDU now governs Saarland.
A loss for her would have been a worrying signal for the national campaign and for two bigger state elections in May in Schleswig-Holstein and Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, both now led by the Social Democrats.
The CDU - along with its partner, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) - and the SPD are tied at 33 per cent in the voter surveys at this point in the election cycle. She has also been accused of shifting her party to the left and co-opting some of the SPD's policies, thereby fuelling the rise of the AfD.
The rejuvenated national poll numbers came to be referred to as the the "Schulz effect". Schulz is visiting the German state of Saarland as part of the campaign for regional elections there on March 26.
Kramp-Karrenbauer is one of only five conservative state governors, and her party's showing was up from 35.2 percent in Saarland's 2012 election.
But her popularity took a hit recently when nationalists slammed her decision to open the country's border to more than 1 million Syrian and other refugees fleeing war and hardship in the Middle East and other global hot spots.
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But this does not necessarily mean the party would follow a similar path in the election for the Bundestag later this year, said Merkel, who has governed in coalition with the SPD for two of her three terms as chancellor.
The polls had anticipated a much tighter race between the SPD and CDU.
He said: "We have picked up support in the last few weeks, in Saarland too, and we are looking ahead".
"This is a long-distance run, not a sprint", Schulz said with an eye on September's national election, but added that the outcome of Sunday's vote should not be "sugar-coated".
The Social Democrats had ruled out working with the Left Party in previous national elections, although they do have regional alliances in the opposition party's eastern heartland. But the Greens, who would nearly certainly have to be part of any governing left-wing coalition at the national level, failed to clear the five-percent hurdle needed for parliamentary representation in the southwest German state.
"While yesterday's result hasn't ended the SPD's hopes of making it into the chancellery, it has certainly put a damper on Schulz mania", it said.
The anti-capitalist Left Party was projected third with 12-13 per cent, with the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany at about 6 per cent.
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