31 March, 2017
(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, hands over a bunch of flowers to the party's top candidate for Saarland, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 2nd left, at the beginning of a party meeting at the headquarter of the German Christian Democratic Party (CDU) in Berlin, Germany, Monday, March 27, 2017 one day after the elections in the German state of Saarland.
But the new euphoria did not translate into the strong results the SPD had hoped for in Saarland, a former coal mining region, which held the first of three German state polls scheduled in the run-up to the national election.
"We have picked up support in the last few weeks, in Saarland too, and we are looking ahead", he said, promising to draw "the necessary consequences" for the two next two state elections in May.
However, the recent regional election in Saarland, Merkel's CDU has received a major boost and it was the biggest setback for Mr. Schultz so far.
While SPD is reported to have won about 30 percent in Sunday's vote - generally regarded as a bellwether ahead of Germany's September 24 general election - the CDU victory suggests Mrs. Merkel's hold on power is stronger than some predicted.
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who had been enjoying a surge in the polls thanks to their freshly-anointed champion, Martin Schulz, came in a distant second with 30 per cent.
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The result suggested many voters in Saarland were frightened by talk of a "red-red" coalition between the SPD and the far-left Linke party, which scored about 13%.
Political scientist Robert Vehrkamp of the Bertelsmann Foundation noted that strong turnout of around 70 per cent had transformed what was forecast as a tight race into a show of force for the CDU. They pointed to the possibility of a Social Democrat-led government with the opposition Left Party - a prospect that may have turned off some voters.
He said the debate over a possible red-red coalition had "obviously penalised the SPD" by frightening part of the electorate.
The anti-immigration and right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party just scraped in with 6%, meaning it is now represented in 11 of Germany's 16 state assemblies.
The SPD has recently seen a surge in support under its new leader Martin Schulz, with some polls placing the party neck-and-neck with the CDU and even ahead of them for the first time in nearly 10 years. The left-leaning Greens dropped out of the state legislature, falling short of the 5 percent needed to keep their seats. No other party wants to work with it. He acknowledged that the Saarland outcome should not be "sugar-coated", but also said the election process "is a long-distance run, not a sprint", according to Reuters.