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1st Mar 2024

Schulz fails to beat Merkel in German home state

  • Former EU parliament leader, Martin Schulz, failed to win his home state (Photo: PES Communications)

Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right CDU party won the elections in Germany's largest state on Sunday (14 May), serving as another blow to the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) ahead of the federal elections in September.

CDU received 33 percent of the votes in North Rhine-Westphalia, the western state that has the cities of Bonn, Cologne, Dortmund, and Duesseldorf. The christian-democrats gained 6.7 percentage points - compared to the last state elections.

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The social-democrats lost 7.9 percentage points, and ended up in second place with 31.2 percent of the vote.

“This is a difficult day, also for me personally,” said SPD leader Martin Schulz, known in Brussels as the former president of the European Parliament.

North Rhine-Westphalia is Schulz's home state, and he would have hoped to secure it. The social-democrats have also been in power there for 46 of the last 51 years.

The vote in North Rhine-Westphalia was the last of three state elections ahead of the federal parliamentary elections on 24 September.

All three were regarded as a measurement of whether Schulz, who became SPD party leader in January, could change the fortune of his party.

For a while, the social-democrats enjoyed what has been dubbed the "Schulz effect" - skyrocketing in the polls.

However, Merkel's CDU came out on top in all three state elections, showing that the this effect was only virtual.

At Sunday's election, voters ousted the coalition between the SPD and the Greens, with the latter losing almost half of its previously-held support: from 11.3 percent down to 6.4 percent.

The liberal FDP party grew by 4 percentage points, to 12.6 percent, and is perceived by commentators as the most likely coalition candidate for the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia.

But CDU's Armin Laschet, who will likely become the new state premier, said on Monday that he would have discussions not only with the FDP, but also with the SPD and the Greens.

He noted that the citizens of Germany's biggest state "wanted a government change", but that coalition talks do not need to be finished "during this morning".

Laschet excluded working together with Alternative for Germany (AfD) - a far right, anti-immigration, anti-EU party - which received 7.4 percent of the vote, entering the parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia for the first time.

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After the Social Democrats' crushing defeat in its party leader's home state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the odds seem stacked against them for the rapidly approaching federal election in September.

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