CDU wins over SPD's stronghold of North Rhine-Westphalia
May 17, 2017, 12:58
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.
In 1995, the region came under the rule of a coalition of SPD and SPD-Greens which then managed to seize the popular vote from Chancellor Hemut Kohl, the prime figure of Germany's reunification.
"This was a whopping defeat", Schulz, 61, a former European Parliament president who hails from the state, told reporters in Berlin. "I want a strong SPD, CDU and FDP, because I think those are the parties that may actually be able to improve things", said a younger man.
"This is a great day for North Rhine-Westphalia", said the CDU's top candidate, Armin Laschet (pictured above), who will most likely become the next state premier.
By area, North Rhine - Westphalia - only the fourth of the 16 Federal States of Germany, but by population first.
After the elections, there are several options for coalition, including a "Grand coalition" of conservatives and social Democrats in effect at the Federal level. But that support failed to translate into votes in the last two state elections, when the CDU won comfortably.
Germans have taken to the polls in the country's most populous state in a vote that pundits say could determine Germany's future political direction.
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's biggest regional economy, has tripped up the Social Democrats before. However, Schulz's SPD has lost two state elections to Merkel's CDU in a row, in Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein, dimming the halo of Schulz.
Projections show clear win for the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia election.
"The result today is above all one of the regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia".
Schulz's chances of becoming chancellor still "seem material" given that he already energized his party's voters once, Ricardo Garcia, a European economist at UBS, said in a research note. "I am convinced that for the past seven years, step by step, we have helped this state move forward", Kraft said in the state capital, Duesseldorf.
"We are going into the national elections with a lot of confidence", said lawmaker Michael Grosse-Broemer, who heads the CDU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, noting that the latest win gave the party further "tailwind". But overshadowing Kraft's campaign for yesterday's election has been criticism of her government's handling of the 2016 New Year's Eve attacks on women in Cologne, as well a December terrorist attack on a Berlin Christmas market that was carried out by a one-time resident of North Rhine Westphalia.
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