Merkel's party wins election in rivals' German heartland

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

It is home to 17.9 million people, almost a quarter of Germany's population, and is also the home state of Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic challenger seeking to deny Mrs Merkel a fourth term in the national election on September 24.

Who is going to rule this region?

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Thursday underlined common ground with Macron in Germany and France's bid to bolster the European Union, which has been buffeted by Britain's decision to quit the bloc.

Sunday's win in NRW comes a day before Merkel is scheduled to meet in Berlin with France's newly installed President Emmanuel Macron.

An election in Germany's biggest state is always significant, but it carries higher stakes this year, being the last regional vote before national polls and having a direct impact on whether the SPD can close the gap nationwide with the CDU.

But the results marked a huge blow to Martin Schulz, who had generated a strong surge in support for the SPD when he took over the party in February.

Projections show clear win for the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia election.

National polls show the Social Democrats trailing Merkel's conservatives by up to 10 points after drawing level earlier this year.

Armin Laschet (L), Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader in North Rhine-Westphalia, casts ballot for the regional state elections of North Rhine-Westphalia at a polling station in Aachen, Germany, May 14, 2017.

The SPD's state premier, Hannelore Kraft, resigned both from the state premiership and the region's party leadership.

The SPD has rejected the option of ruling with the Greens and the Left, a party that has also been rejected as partners by the Conservatives. "In case of victory of Petry, the expected to cooperate more with Vladimir Putin and revival of the Russian-German Alliance, which was typical for the 19th century, will lead to change of USA policy concerning Europe, and the geography of Europe itself", the source said.

But Merkel has also been pounding the streets in the state of 18 million people, including 4.2 million of migrant origin.

Her party, she said, offered "justice in the sense of jobs, strong budgets, funds for local communities".

"I think this is disproportionate and the state government must do something about it, because it is responsible for that", Merkel said earlier this week of the rise in crime in NRW.

At the same time, the Green Party, now the junior coalition partner to the SPD in the government of Germany's most populous state, took a massive hit, dropping down to 6.4%.

Germany's Social Democrats came in for a well-earned battering yesterday at crucial regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, once the country's sprawling industrial heartland.

  • Leroy Wright