CDU unseats SPD in crucial state election
19 May, 2017
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU has beaten its rival Social Democrats in their stronghold in North Rhine-Westphalia, dealing them a serious blow ahead of national elections in September, news wires reported. While CDU won 33% of the vote, the Social Democrats came second, garnering 31.2% of the vote in its stronghold state, down over 7 points from the last election in 2012.
The business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), looking to re-enter the German parliament this fall, came in third, taking 12.6%, a significant increase compared to 2012. The populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) will enter North Rhine-Westphalia's parliament for the first time, picking up 7.4%. The Green party, currently the junior coalition partner to the SPD, took a massive hit, dropping down to 6.4%.
“This is a great day for North Rhine-Westphalia,” said the CDU candidate Armin Laschet, who will most likely become the next state premier. “We accomplished our two goals: defeating the SPD-Greens coalition and becoming the strongest party in the state.” Outgoing state premier Hannelore Kraft took full responsibility for her party's loss. Voter turnout was markedly higher than five years prior, with 65% casting their ballots.
Martin Schulz, the SPD's chancellor candidate, weighed in on his party's defeat. “This is a hard day for the SPD and for me personally,” he said. Support for the SPD surged following the announcement of Schulz's candidacy earlier this year, but the so-called 'Schulz effect' has tapered off in recent months.