Angela Merkel faces key test in German state election

Elias Hubbard
May 15, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives are hoping to unseat the ruling Social Democrats (SPD) in an election on Sunday in the country's most populous state, the final electoral test for both parties before a federal vote in September.

"A win for Merkel in North Rhine-Westphalia would help her enormously, since it would consolidate her position in the party", Huelsduenker said ahead of elections in the state on Sunday.

However, issues in the area including clogged traffic, rising crime, an underperforming education system and relatively high unemployment could force voters to turn to her party.

Exit polls suggest Angela Merkel's conservatives have romped to a shock win in the heartland of the rival SPD, North Rhine Westphalia.

Merkel's image as an experienced leader who can provide stability resonates with many risk-averse Germans.

On Jaeger's watch, Cologne also became the scene of mass sexual assaults by groups of mostly North African men on New Year's Eve of 2015-2016, inflaming the debate over the 890,000 asylum seekers Germany welcomed in 2015. She is also seen as a champion of free trade.

The win by the pro-European and pro-trade Macron aginst far-right candidate Marine Len Pen in France's rancorous presidential election campaign was greeted with relief in Germany, which sees the European Union as a key pillar of its world view and national economy.

The SPD has governed NRW for most of the post-war years since 1945, and losing power in what they regard as their bastion would raise serious doubt about their chances of toppling Merkel in just over four months' time.

NRW has previously been a stronghold for the Social Democrats (SPD), the party lead by former European parliament president Martin Schulz. He vowed to roll back labour market reforms that increased the number of people in poorly paid jobs and to broaden social welfare.

But his message of social justice has lost its appeal among voters as he has yet to spell out details of his plans and how much they would cost.

Kraft's coalition partners, the Greens, are polling poorly and chances of their alliance keeping its majority look poor. They would be hoping to replicate those results at the national level.

Written off past year for her refugee stance, Merkel is rebounding after the SPD's "Schulz effect", a poll surge following his nomination in January, tapered off. Merkel said the party "can't waste a single vote".

The SPD and the CDU are the two main parties in the German parliament, known as the Bundestag or House of Representatives. But defeats in two other state elections since then had already punctured the party's euphoria over Schulz's nomination, and its ratings have sagged. Merkel has hit hard on the SPD's record on crime and debt, rallying a CDU base that traditionally has a difficult time getting the upper hand.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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