Merkel's party had strong showing in regional vote

Andrew Cummings
March 31, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party easily won a regional election Sunday (26 March), dealing an early blow to centre-left hopes of ending her more than decade-long reign.

With member countries pledging to contribute two per cent of their GDP to defence in 2014, something only a handful do, Mr Trump has been critical of those who he deems are not paying their fair share. But the Greens, who would nearly certainly have to be part of any governing left-wing coalition at the national level, failed to clear the five-percent hurdle needed for parliamentary representation in the southwest German state. Instead, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union posted its biggest win in the state in 13 years, after a campaign that included raising the specter of the anti-capitalist Left party entering the state government.

Two more state elections in May will be followed by a national parliamentary election on September 24 in which Merkel is seeking a fourth term as chancellor.

The vote in Saarland is also the first major test of the Social Democrats (SPD) under their new leader, Martin Schulz.

"Yesterday was a great day and thus an encouraging day", she said, after presenting Saarland's victorious CDU premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer with a bouquet of daisies.

Pre-election polls had suggested a significantly tighter race and indicated that the Social Democrats might be able to form a new left-wing coalition in Saarland.

CDU secretary general Peter Tauber said the outcome was "a clear rejection of red-red-green", including at the national level. While she spoke passionately on the topic on the campaign trail and at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last July, she has not yet defined a platform or spoken publicly on the topic since her father took office more than two months ago.

Her center-left challenger in Germany's national election later this year vowed not to be put off his stride by a deflating result.

For Merkel, the result was a victory for a popular state leader who sits on the CDU's national leadership board and has broadly backed her open-borders refugee policy. However, the Sunday elections results showed that no such coalition is possible now.

The bill is said to take into account how much Germany underspent by since 2002, when Chancellor Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, pledged to spend more on defence.

The national election will be held on September 24.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which bruised Merkel in regional elections past year after her decision in 2015 to open Germany's doors to migrants from the Middle East, won 6.2 percent of the vote in Saarland.

Other reports by iNewsToday