Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives won a state election Sunday in their center-left rivals’ traditional heartland, a stinging blow to the German leader’s challenger in September’s national election.
The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which includes Cologne, Duesseldorf and the Ruhr industrial region, is Germany’s most populous and has been led by the center-left Social Democrats for all but five years since 1966.
It is home to 17.9 million people, nearly a quarter of Germany’s population. It is also the home state of Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic challenger seeking to deny Merkel a fourth term in the Sept. 24 national election— though he wasn’t on the ballot Sunday.
Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on partial counting, showed Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union beating the Social Democrats by about 34 percent to a bit over 30.5 percent. They gave the Greens, the junior coalition partners in the outgoing state government, only 6 percent.
That means governor Hannelore Kraft’s coalition with the Greens lost its majority in the state legislature. And it puts conservative challenger Armin Laschet, a liberal-minded deputy leader of Merkel’s party, in a position to replace her.
This article continues at [Breitbart] MERKEL ASCENDANT: Mutti Set to Steal Socialist Seats in ‘Key’ State Election