Victory by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party in local elections of the country's most populous state suggests the 12-year leader will survive national elections in September. Matthew Larotonda reports.
Victories by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party in local elections on Sunday (May 15) suggest Europe's most powerful leader is on track to survive a national election in September. The vote in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, is seen as a bellwether, because about 20 percent of German voters live there. And Merkel's Christian Democrats surged, local media reporting the party pulled in 33 percent of of the vote, up seven percent from the last election in 2012. Their chief rival, the Social Democrats, took away 31 percent - an eight point fall. It's their third loss in local elections since March. Merkel's been buoyed by strong economic growth year over year, and expanding German influence in the European Union and abroad. Her long tenure, and pull toward the center, seen as a luring back cautious voters. But while this win may bring a sigh of relief for her party, the fight is far from over. The Social Democrats have tapped the former leader of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, to challenge her in the general election. He's running on a platform of righting perceived social inequalities. And the chancellor's immigration policies, admitting over a million mainly Muslim asylum seekers, has sapped her popularity and fueled far-right political foes. A long way to go until September.