Merkel's CDU Unseats Ruling SPD In Crucial German State Election

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) won 33 percent of the vote in North Rhine-Westphalia's state election on Sunday, official projections showed.

Party, the Christian democratic Union, whose leader is Angela Merkel, won the local elections in North Rhine - Westphalia, where previously the authorities were social Democrats.

North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous among the German states with almost 18 million residents accounting for 20 percent of Germany's population.

As the CDU gets a chance to govern the state for only the second time in 50 years, national polls put Merkel's Christian Democrat-led bloc as many as 10 percentage points ahead of the SPD.

Another option for Laschet is a tie-up with his party's traditional allies, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), a coalition which would have a thin parliamentary majority.

SPD leader Schulz admitted a "crashing defeat" for his party, since his party lost 8.2 percent of the ballots compared to the 2012 election.

"The German wave" with reference to the first exit poll reports that the CDU gaining 34.5% of the vote, while the social Democrats and 30.5%.

An election Sunday in Germany's most populous state is serving as a prelude to September's national vote.

Germany's opposition SPD is nursing a stunning defeat in the state election in its North Rhine Westphalia heartland.

Germany's right-wing nationalist party, Alternative für Deutschland, won a little over 7% of Sunday's vote and will therefore have representation in the NRW parliament.

Support for the SPD surged in January when the party appointed former European Parliament president Martin Schulz as its leader, vowing to boost welfare and reverse unpopular labour market reforms that expanded Germany's low-pay sector.

Palpable frustration over worsening traffic congestion and crime that has plagued the crowded northwestern state, which borders the Netherlands and Belgium, were the decisive factors behind the Social Democrats' sudden demise after the party had ruled there for 46 of the last 51 years. They give the Greens - the junior coalition partners in the outgoing state government, only 6 percent, meaning that the coalition would lose its majority. "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, Düsseldorf.

"His immediate task now will be to relaunch the so-far exclusively personality-driven SPD campaign for the Bundestag elections; the party immediately needs to start focusing on policies to widen the SPD's appeal beyond its core electorate".

"It's a hard day for the SPD, a hard day for me personally", Schulz told supporters in Berlin. Saarland and Schleswig Holstein are relatively small - North Rhine Westphalia is huge.

At the same time, the Green Party, now the junior coalition partner to the SPD in the government of Germany's most populous state, took a massive hit, dropping down to 6.4%.

"But the SPD will stick with Schulz", Manfred Guellner, head of Berlin-based polling company Forsa, predicted in an interview.

The CDU is hoping to mount a national campaign in September built around Merkel (photo), who has been in office since 2005, as a force of political stability and a steady hand on the global stage.

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