Traffic jams, break-ins could cost Germany's SPD key state vote

Posted May 17, 2017

"Merkel has proved it to all them again: to all the naggers and doubters, all the nervous lads from her own ranks, who - after the refugee crisis and the electoral defeats a year ago - already predicted the Union's decline".

After a blaze of publicity earlier this year, Mr Schulz - who chose not to join the government when he returned to Germany after being president of the European Parliament - has struggled to maintain a high profile. "It's a tough day for the SPD and also tough for me personally".

A defeat for center-left governor Hannelore Kraft in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia state would be a major blow for the Social Democrats after poor showings in two previous state elections.

For Merkel, it's a vindication of her two-prong approach in North Rhine Westphalia.

"We are going very, very confidently with a tailwind into the Bundestag election", said Michael Grosse-Broemer, a national parliamentary leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats.

Mr Schulz himself had acknowledged the importance of Sunday's vote after casting his ballot in his hometown of Wuerselen.

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The polls showed the SPD ranked second with taking 30.6 percent of the vote.

For former state premier Hannelaure Kraft the loss was too much, and she resigned, an unusual step but indicative of the severity of the defeat for the SPD.

It is the final state election in Germany before September's federal contest, and it is in the biggest state, North Rhine-Westphalia.

The pressure is on the Social Democrats of challenger Martin Schulz in the election Sunday for the state legislature in North Rhine-Westphalia. The party - whose national leader, Christian Lindner, led its election effort in North Rhine-Westphalia - has tended to ally with Merkel's conservatives over recent decades. "So that we can forget those 50 plus years that the SPD is in power", said one older man.

Likewise, Spiegel Online said: "Martin Schulz now needs a miracle".

That would make it hard for the SPD to muster another coalition, especially as their natural partners, the hard-left Die Linke, are also on just 6 per cent.

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

Macron holds talks with Merkel in Berlin on Monday, a day after his inauguration, with the aim of stressing the importance of the relationship with Germany to relaunching the European project.

But she insisted that "the national election campaign is only beginning now". In a similar region election in Schleswig-Holstein on May 7, the CDU emerged with 33 percent of votes to the SPD's 26.2.

The populist AfD (Alternative for Germany), which has railed against the migration influx, on Sunday secured its first seats in NRW, which would see it represented in 13 of 16 state parliaments.

The pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), looking to re-enter the German Parliament this fall, came in third in North Rhine-Westphalia, taking 12.6% of the vote, a significant increase compared to 2012.

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