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Merkel’s party scores strong win in state poll

Merkel 01KIEL: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives secured a strong win on Sunday in state polls in northern Germany, early results showed, lending a boost to her bid to retain power in September’s national elections.

Voters in the small, northern state of Schleswig-Holstein on the Baltic Sea handed her CDU party 34 per cent, while the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) clinched 27 per cent, according to public broadcaster ZDF. Another public broadcaster ARD gave the CDU 33 per cent and the SPD 26 per cent.

The results marked a blow for the Social Democrats who had earlier this year seen a surge in support since new leader Martin Schulz was chosen in February.

But this enthusiasm appeared to be fading, and Schulz’s supporters are increasingly fearful that the momentum he had been surfing will not carry him into the chancellery, which Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have held since 2005.

The blow to the Social Democrats’ confidence came one week ahead of a far bigger regional vote in their stronghold of North Rhine-Westphalia, also Germany’s most populous state.

SPD deputy chief Ralf Stegner called Sunday’s result “disappointing” and a “bitter day for Social Democrats in Schleswig-Holstein”.

Merkel’s CDU meanwhile was confidently looking to next Sunday’s polls. “A good election result gives us motivation to go on fighting,” said lawmaker Michael Grosse-Broemer, who heads the CDU parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

Merkel’s party has seen a comeback, after losing a string of state elections over the past two years as voters punished the German leader for her liberal refugee policy that allowed more than one million asylum seekers into Germany since 2015. -AFP

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