German chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic party (CDU) has headed off a challenge from a right-wing populist party, winning convincingly in local elections in Lower Saxony.
The CDU received 34.4% of votes, ahead of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) with 31.2% and the Greens with 10.9%, the state’s electoral commission announced yesterday.
The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party received just 7.8%
in Sunday’s poll, less than the 12% that had been predicted, although it attained double-digit results in some areas.
The vote was a key test for Merkel after her party was beaten into third place in last weekend’s elections in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern following a big swing to the anti-immigration AfD.
Merkel has faced criticism over her refugee policy, which saw the country accept more than one million refugees last year.
The Lower Saxony vote represented a swing of 2.6% against the CDU since the last municipal elections in the state in 2011.
But the swing was even bigger against the SPD, which currently heads up a state coalition government under premier Stephan Weil with the environmentalist Greens.
Both parties suffered a loss in support of over 3%. The city state of Berlin goes to the polls next weekend.
Polls show the SPD as remaining the biggest party in the Berlin legislature but with AfD scoring up to 15% of the vote.
The CDU seized on the results in Lower Saxony as a positive signal for the party’s success at the next elections in the state set down for 2018.
“This is a good starting point for the next state election campaign in Lower Saxony,” said CDU national secretary peter Tauber.
The Free Democratic Party and the Left Party received 4.8 and 3.3% respectively in Sunday’s election.
A total of 22 parties stood for the 29,116 council seats that were up for grabs in the poll and voter turnout was 55.5%, higher than the 52.5% recorded five years ago.
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