Merkel’s party records 3rd key vic­tory

New Straits Times - - World -

DÜSSELDORF: The party of Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel scored an up­set vic­tory yes­ter­day in elec­tions in Ger­many’s most pop­u­lous state that is seen as a dress re­hearsal for na­tional par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Septem­ber, when she will seek a fourth term.

The vic­tory in North RhineWest­phalia, home to 18 mil­lion peo­ple and one in five Ger­man vot­ers, dealt a se­vere blow to Martin Schulz, Merkel’s So­cial Demo­cratic chal­lenger, who ad­mit­ted to a bit­ter de­feat in his home state, tra­di­tion­ally the left­ists’ heart­land.

Cheers erupted at the state head­quar­ters of Merkel’s Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union when early re­sults came in.

With al­most all bal­lots counted, the Chris­tian Democrats won al­most 33 per cent of votes cast, com­pared with 31 per cent for the cen­tre-left So­cial Democrats.

The na­tional elec­tions are still more than four months away — a long time in an era of febrile pol­i­tics across Europe, where main­stream par­ties have seen their grip weaken in re­cent elec­tions.

But Merkel, in power since 2005, seems to be buck­ing the trend, buoyed by ex­pe­ri­ence, a calm tem­per­a­ment and the ex­cep­tional eco­nomic strength of Ger­many, which has 4.1 per cent un­em­ploy­ment and last week an­nounced record ex­ports and tax rev­enues that will ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions by €55 bil­lion (RM261 bil­lion) by 2020.

Schulz, re­act­ing to the re­sults, said it was a “tough day”, but that he and his party would now fo­cus on win­ning the na­tional elec­tions in Septem­ber.

A deputy leader of the So­cial Democrats, Ralf Steg­ner, con­ceded min­utes af­ter exit polls, sug­gest­ing that his party was headed for what he called a “bit­ter de­feat”.

Schulz rode a wave of hype and hope to sud­den pop­u­lar­ity this year, but has fiz­zled since.

By con­trast, Merkel has played up her sta­tus as a world leader and savoured two un­ex­pected clear vic­to­ries for her party in other state elec­tions, last week and in late March. NYT

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