Merkel Takes Big Leap Toward Re-Election

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Exit polls project German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) will win Sunday’s state election in North Rhine-Westphalia, setting themselves up for a victory in the general election this September.

CDU won 34.3 percent of the votes against the Social Democrats’ (SPD) 30.6 percent. North Rhine-Westphalia is home to a quarter of the German population and has historically been a stronghold for SPD.

North Rhine-Westphalia was the last state to hit the polls before the general election Sept. 24. Many believe the results indicate Merkel will cruise toward a fourth term in office as SPD has slipped in polls after holding the lead in February.

“This is a great day for North Rhine-Westphalia,” Armin Laschet, CDU’s top candidate in the state, told Deutsche Welle. “We accomplished our two goals: defeating the SPD-Greens coalition and becoming the strongest party in the state.”

SPD leader Martin Schulz acknowledged that a loss in his home state is devastating for the party’s chances.

“This is a hard day for the SPD and for me personally,” Schulz told Deutsche Welle. “I hail from the state where we just suffered a crushing election defeat.”

Schulz left his position as president of the European Parliament in January to challenge Merkel.

“I haven’t even been head of the SPD for 100 days, I’m not a magician,” Schulz said.

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