World Media

German local vote is test for Merkel's challenger

German local vote is test for Merkel's challenger

Voters in northern Germany are casting ballots in a local election that will test the strength of the country's Social Democrats as they try to deny Chancellor Angela Merkel a fourth term.

As Merkel's preferred candidate Emmanuel Macron won France's presidential election, her Christian Democratic Union posted an unexpectedly clear victory in a much smaller contest in Schleswig-Holstein.

A recent survey of around 1,800 people for public broadcaster ZDF showed the CDU with 32 per cent support in Schleswig-Holstein and the SPD with 29.

"This a bitter result for us", Barley said, but downplayed the idea that this could hurt the momentum of the party ahead of another round of regional elections next week - in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, an SPD stronghold.

The exit polls indicate the Social Democrats' coalition has lost its majority.

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United, which settled the incident in a confidential lawsuit last week, admitted that it was a "horrible failure" on its part. The company said it is taking steps to ensure it does not happen again.

The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), in the midst of a comeback attempt after humiliation at national elections in 2013, appears on the way up, while the ecologist Greens have fallen back.

Jobs and wind farm plans are among the regional issues in Schleswig-Holstein, a region of 2.3 million voters that juts north of Hamburg and borders Denmark.

But if the AfD or the far-left party Die Linke enter the legislatures, this could make for an upset in larger players' coalition calculus.

The CDU took more than 33 per cent, a gain of 2.5 percentage points over the last state election in 2011, while the SPD slumped about 4 points to 26.5 per cent, according to ARD television projections based on partial returns.

The populist AfD (Alternative for Germany), which has railed against the migrant influx, scrapped through on Sunday with 5.5 percent support, winning its first seats in the state parliament in Kiel, despite a vicious falling-out between moderates and hardliners inside the party.

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Schulz could take over as chancellor if the Social Democrats come in ahead of Merkel in the national vote on September 24. "The SPD has been voted out of power and it is up to the CDU to form a coalition", he said, adding that he would hold coalition talks with the FDP and Green party.

The Social Democrats surged in national polls after Martin Schulz, a former European Parliament president, was nominated as Ms. Merkel's challenger, but the party's ratings have since sagged.

The state election commissioner in Schleswig-Holstein estimated that by 11 a.m. (0900 GMT), 21.55 percent of eligible voters had cast their vote, up from 17.7 percent at the same stage in the last regional vote in 2012.

Angela Merkel will seek a fourth term as German chancellor in September's federal election.

Polls suggest a power-sharing "grand coalition" between the SPD and the conservatives could be the sole governing option in Schleswig-Holstein - a scenario that could also arise again at the federal level after the September election. The region of 2.8 million people elects a new state legislature Sunday - a week before voting in North Rhine-Westphalia, which has almost a quarter of Germany's population.

North Korea accuses Central Intelligence Agency of 'bio-chemical' plot against Kim Jong Un
North Korea warned of an impending cataclysm should relations between the two countries reach a boiling point. The 1,800-word report did not specify when the alleged assassination plot was stopped.


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