Germans head to polls in crucial state vote

An election in Germany's most populous state is serving as a prelude to September's national vote and could give conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel new momentum in her quest for a fourth term - or offer her centre -left challenger some relief.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) won 33% of the vote in North Rhine-Westphalia's state election on Sunday, official projections showed.

The YouGov survey for broadcaster Sat.1 NRW, published on Thursday, put support for Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at 31 percent in the state, with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) on 30 percent.

The nationalist Alternative for Germany was seen winning 7.5 percent, giving the latter seats in its 13th state legislature, and the opposition Left Party 5 percent.

The shock result comes four months before the German federal election, with polls showing the Social Democrats trailing CDU by up to 10 points after drawing level earlier this year. We had two goals in this election, to stop red-green and become strongest political power.

Why this regional election matters?

With three consecutive CDU victories in state election since March, Merkel heads toward the summer with a tailwind.

"In the US there is an understanding that Angela Merkel has no chance for re-election as Chancellor of Germany, and unlike the previous election she will hardly be able to keep her post, even by saving the "big coalition", the source said".

Fresh from a key state election victory for her Christian Democratic Union, Merkel sought to set the tone for the federal vote on September 24 by suggesting it will turn in part on who has the better program for creating the jobs of the future.

Interior minister of North-Rhine-Westphalia Ralf Jaeger addresses a press conference to announce the suspension of Cologne's police chief on Januar 8, 2015 in Cologne, western Germany.

Martin Schulz, the SPD's chancellor candidate looking to unseat Merkel in the national election in September, weighed in on his party's defeat.

The Social Democrats' national ratings soared after Schulz, a former European Parliament president, was nominated in January as Merkel's challenger.

Schulz called the loss on his home turf "a truly crushing defeat". She said she took full responsibility for her party's defeat in Sunday's election.

"This is a hard day for the SPD and a hard day for me personally".

Yesterday's result could now pave the way for the state's first ever coalition between the CDU and the SPD under the 56-year-old Laschet.

While Schulz now holds no public office besides SPD chief and thus has no natural platform beyond the stump, Merkel'office provides her with the best stage to burnish her reputation as Germany's Stabilitätsanker (anchor of stability) in an unstable world.

  • Zachary Reyes