Merkel's party wins key local polls in most populous German stateEuropost
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) came out on top in district elections in the state of North Rhine Westphalia, according to projections, dpa reported. The local polls helped shed light on the political playing field as the country gears up for federal elections next year in which Merkel is not seeking another term.
The CDU took 36% of the vote, a little less than what they achieved in similar polls in 2014, according to broadcaster WDR and the Infratest dimap exit poll. Although the party did not increase its vote share, the win bolsters the ambitions of Armin Laschet, the 59-year-old CDU member and would-be Merkel successor who is the state premier of North Rhine Westphalia. He is in the running to become leader of the CDU and potentially launch a bid to succeed Merkel as chancellor. A vote on the leadership is to take place at a party conference in December.
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), which has been battered in contests in recent years, came in second in the state poll with 23.5%, a big decline from 31% 5 years ago.
Beside the CDU success, the other main storyline was the surge seen by the Greens, which won 19%, growing from 11.7% of the vote in 2014. The improvement had been predicted by pollsters and followed a string of electoral gains in Germany that have made the Greens a big contender in 2021 federal elections.
The far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) is expected to gain 6% of votes, up from its previous result of 2.6% in 2014.
The pro-business liberal party FDP and the hard-left Linke party were both forecasted to come in at under 5% of the vote.
Some 51.5% of voters turned out, slightly more than in the earlier polls. Many citizens had already submitted their ballots by post. Around 14 million people were eligible to vote in Germany's most populous state, home to the country's western industrial heartland and cities such as Cologne, Dusseldorf, Dortmund and Essen.