Merkel's Conservatives Win German State Election

Support for the Greens nearly halved to 6.4 percent, while the liberal Free Democratic Party gained four percentage points to 12.6 percent.

The conservatives' general-secretary, Peter Tauber, said the Christian Democratic Union "has won the heartland of the Social Democrats". "I take personal responsibility for this defeat.", she said.

He admitted Monday that his party faces a "rocky road" to September elections. "Those are ideas we have to develop further", Merkel said Thursday.

In power here for most of the postwar period, the SPD were decimated, losing almost 10% of their vote as Angela Merkel's CDU soared.

More than 13 million voters would go to the polls on Sunday in Germany's biggest state in an election expected to help set the stage for the national ballot in September.

Germany is facing federal elections on September 24 with its national energy policy often hindered by regional considerations amid a rising imbalance between an oversupplied North and an undersupplied South amid very slow progress and rising costs for the national grid expansion plan.

The SPD's defeat in North Rhine Westphalia strikes a major blow to the party and its candidate for chancellor, the former European Parliament president Martin Schulz.

Germen Chancellor Merkel's party beat its rival Social Democrats in their stronghold in North Rhine-Westphalia, Deutsche Welle reported.

Kraft has ruled NRW since 2010 in a coalition with the environmentalists Greens, whose support among voters has more than halved to just over 6 percent, making it difficult for the SPD to muster a coalition, especially as their natural partners, the hard-left Die Linke, are also on 6 percent.

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

Meanwhile, the populist AfD (Alternative for Germany), which has railed against the migration influx, on Sunday secured its first seats in North Rhine-Westphalia, which would see it represented in 13 of 16 state parliaments.

With the FDP's double digit success and the Left Party's chances of making it into parliament slim, the CDU could form a narrow center-right majority with the FDP.

That would mirror Merkel's national government, in which the Social Democrats are the junior partners.

After the elections, there are several options for coalition, including a "Grand coalition" of conservatives and social Democrats in effect at the Federal level. Germany's most populous state is holding an election Sunday that serves as a prelude to a national vote four months away, and could give conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel new momentum in her quest for a fourth term.

"Merkel has proved it to all them again: to all the naggers and doubters, all the nervous lads from her own ranks, who - after the refugee crisis and the electoral defeats previous year - already predicted the Union's decline". Publicly, they'll likely try to dismiss this as a purely regional vote on regional issues - the party's top regional candidate, Hannelore Kraft, announced she would step down from the party leadership - but there seems to be a near-consensus that Schulz' campaign needs an overhaul.

Merkel's conservatives sought to portray Kraft's government as slack on security, and also assailed what they said is regional authorities' poor handling of education and infrastructure projects.

Mr Schulz is hoping that his push for "social justice" will resonate in North Rhine-Westphalia, which has lagged behind western Germany economically.

  • Zachary Reyes