Merkel’s party records 3rd key victory
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