Merkel Vows to Fight for Re-Election Following German State Win

Anke Rehlinger of Germany's SPD Social Democrats lost out to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party in the Saarland regional election.

Two more state elections in May will be followed by a national parliamentary election on September 24 in which Merkel is seeking a fourth term as chancellor.

Merkel, at the helm of Europe's biggest economy for nearly 12 years, said she expects a tough campaign even after her Christian Democratic Union kept its hold on the western state of Saarland, Germany's second-smallest state, in an election on Sunday.

Kramp-Karrenbauer also dismissed the idea that the election of Martin Schulz as SPD chancellor candidate and party chairman had revitalized the Social Democrats and given them a potentially decisive advantage in September's national election.

But the Greens failed to reach the 5 percent threshold required to enter the state assembly, while the SPD and Linke, which won 12.9 percent, lacked enough votes to form a coalition on their own.

The Guardian says two state elections in May will give further indications of the political temperature in Europe's largest economy.

National polls show Merkel and Schulz in a neck-and-neck race to be Germany's next leader.

While Schulz managed to increase support for the SPD nationwide, premier Kramp-Karrenbauer's strong popularity in Saarland secured a victory for the CDU in the tiny state bordering France.

Deustche Welle quoted Schulz's reaction to the result in Saarland as saying "getting a goal does not mean the match is over".

"For Merkel, this is a positive start into the election year and should help to calm the mood within her alliance of Christian parties", said Carsten Nickel, a risk analyst at Teneo Intelligence in Brussels.

"We made it clear that we would like to continue this grand coalition", said the CDU's Kramp-Karrenbauer. Mr. Schultz, who campaigned vigorously in this local election, received 29.6 percent of all votes, down from 30.4 percent in the previous election.

"The Left Party not participating (in government) has had significantly good results for Germany", Merkel said.

But the biggest challenge will be the western state of North-Rhine-Westphalia which has more than 17m inhabitants and on the 14 May will be viewed as a test running of the general election.

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