Germany's Merkel Wins First Election-Year Test In Decisive State Poll

The report claimed that Angela Merkel was handed a bill by the United States president during her recent visit to DC, for failure to meet NATO's defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP.

This may be an early indication of Merkel's prospects of winning a fourth term in September's national election.

According to the results reported by ZDF public TV, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) obtained 30 per cent of the votes, in a setback to its new national leader, Martin Schulz, the former European Parliament President and current candidate for the chancellorship.

Saarland is now run by a "grand coalition" of the conservatives and Social Democrats, similar to Merkel's governing alliance in Berlin.

Voters returned Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) to power with 41 percent of the vote, five points higher than at the last election in 2012.

Merkel doubled down on Monday, saying she would consider governing with any party except the Left or the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany if her CDU-led bloc wins on September 24.

"I refuse to make any declaration in March about what will be possible in September", she said.

A coalition between the CDU and SPD is the most likely outcome for Saarland.

Merkel's CDU came in first place with around 40 percent of the vote, while the SPD trailed in second place with just over 29 percent. Instead, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union posted its biggest win in the state in 13 years, after a campaign that included raising the specter of the anti-capitalist Left party entering the state government.

On a separate front, the development also dims the hopes of Germany's far-right, anti-European Union politicians, who had been seen to be surging ahead of the national election.

Schulz conspicuously ducked questions about uneasiness over the SPD's relationship with the Left Party, which draws most of its support from eastern Germany and is often viewed with distrust in the West.

"This is a great start to the election year 2017", said Michael Grosse-Broemer, the CDU's chief whip in Berlin. Schulz is visiting the German state of Saarland as part of the campaign for regional elections there on March 26.

"We have picked up support in the last few weeks, in Saarland too, and we are looking ahead", Schulz said Monday in comments that struck an optimistic tone. "And there has been a clear message to us this evening: this is a long-distance race, not a sprint". They might become the third largest party in the general election. 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.

  • Salvatore Jensen