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Germany: Merkel’s party fends off far-right challenge in state vote

Supporters of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, CDU, react after the first exit poll for the Saxony-Anhalt state elections announced in Magdeburg, Germany, June 6, 2021. (Bernd Von Jutrczenka/ dpa via AP)
Supporters of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, CDU, react after the first exit poll for the Saxony-Anhalt state elections announced in Magdeburg, Germany, June 6, 2021. (Bernd Von Jutrczenka/ dpa via AP)

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives handily bat away a challenge from the far right in a state election that is seen as the last big test for Germany’s political parties before a national vote in September.

Projections by public broadcaster ARD put Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union at 36.2%, a gain of more than six percentage points, compared to the last election five years ago in the sparsely populated state of 2.2 million inhabitants.

The far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, is projected to get 22.5% of the vote, a slight drop compared to 2016. The party has moved steadily further to the right in recent years and its chapter in Saxony-Anhalt has come under increased scrutiny from Germany’s domestic intelligence service for its ties to extremist groups.

While elections in Germany’s 16 states are often influenced by local issues and voting sentiments, they are also seen as important bellwethers for the national mood.

A strong win for the CDU would be seen as a sign that the party’s new leader, Armin Laschet, can hope for support from both conservatives and centrists on September 26, when it aims to hold onto power at the federal level despite four-term chancellor Merkel not running again.

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