Merkel's mettle tested in crucial German state election ahead of nationwide vote

 
Helen Cahill
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GERMANY-POLICICS-NRW-VOTE-MERKEL
Merkel at an election rally in Haltern am See last Wednesday (Source: Getty)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking to cement her lead in the run-up to the national elections in September with a regional election in her country's largest state.

Around 13m Germans are eligible to cast a vote in the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) today, which is home to almost a quarter of the country's population.

NRW has previously been a stronghold for the Social Democrats (SPD), the party lead by former European parliament president Martin Schulz.

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The SPD received a boost in the polls when Schulz took over the leadership, but has since been flagging. Last month, Merkel's CDU landed a convincing defeat over the SPD in Saarland, and last week, the CDU took northern state of Schlewig-Holstein.

North Rhine-Westphalia Holds State Elections
Schulz speaks to the media as he casts his vote in the state elections (Source: Getty)

And, the final polls on the NRW election suggest Merkel's party is one percentage point ahead of Schulz's.

Merkel's popularity in Germany has suffered as a result of her open-door immigration policy, but the CDU has taken a lead in the NRW campaign by promising to curb migrant crime.

The poll is a crucial test of the CDU's strategy ahead of Germany's general election in September, where Merkel is seeking to extend her 11-year reign over Europe's economic powerhouse.

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