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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, January 20, 2018

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Dealing a stinging blow to rival Schulz, German Chancellor Merkel wins state election in country’s most populous state

The CDU and Free Democrats have a very slim majority now

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BERLIN, Germany - Social Democrats’ Martin Schulz suffered a stinging defeat in the election for the state legislature in his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia after German Chancellor claimed victory.> BNN

Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won 33 percent of the vote in the election, with the Social Democrats on 31.2 percent in Germany’s most populous state.

The western state, reports pointed out has been led by the Social Democrats (SPD) for all but five years since 1966.

Merkel’s conservatives dealt a stinging blow to her challenger, who is seeking to deny the chancellor a fourth term in the September 24 national vote. 

In January, after the former European parliament president, Schulz was nominated as Merkel’s challenger - SPDs’ national ratings soared.

However, defeats in two other state elections since late March weakened the party’s euphoria over Schulz’s nomination.

Sunday’s election is the last before the national vote and the SPD result was the party’s worst in North Rhine-Westphalia since the second world war. 

In 2012, in the state’s previous election, the SPD beat the CDU by 39.1 percent to 26.3 percent.

Meanwhile, SPD governor Hannelore Kraft’s coalition lost its majority as her junior partners, the Greens, winning only 6.4 percent. 

Armin Laschet, a deputy leader of Merkel’s party, the conservative challenger, was poised to replace Kraft.

The conservatives’ general secretary, Peter Tauber said in a statement, “The CDU has won the heartland of the Social Democrats.”

Addressing supporters in Berlin, Schulz, who was not on the ballot said, “This is a difficult day for the Social Democrats; a difficult day for me personally as well. I come from the state in which we took a really stinging defeat today.”

He also urged the party to focus on the national election, adding, “We will sharpen our profile further – we have to as well. We will continue fighting; the result will come on 24 September.”

On Sunday, the pro-business Free Democrats won a strong 12.6 percent of the vote after a campaign headed by their national leader, Christian Lindner. 

The nationalist Alternative for Germany won 7.4 percent, giving it seats in its 13th state legislature. 

The opposition Left party fell just short of the 5 percent needed to win seats.

The CDU and Free Democrats have a very slim majority now. 

Reports pointed out that if they cannot agree on a governing alliance, Laschet could opt for a “grand coalition” of the biggest parties with the Social Democrats.

National polls show the SPD trailing Merkel’s conservatives by up to 10 points after drawing level earlier this year.

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