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    Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz (C) speaks after the publication of the preliminary results of the regional elections in the West German state of North Rhine-Westphalia at the headquarters of the SPD in Berlin on May 14, 2017

    Merkel Boost as Ex-EU Chief Schultz Loses Crucial German Regional Election

    © AFP 2017/ John MACDOUGALL
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    Ex-President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz has failed to win a crucial German regional election that includes the key cities of Bonn, Cologne, Dortmund, and Dusseldorf, paving the way for an anti-EU vote in the upcoming general election.

    Schulz announced he would not stand again as President of the European Parliament, November 2016, in order to return to domestic politics and run for the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) against German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the forthcoming federal election, September 2017.

    However, in the latest regional election in North Rhine-Westphalia — which is the most populous state of Germany and includes Dusseldorf, Bonn, Cologne, Dortmund, and Essen — Schulz's party lost out to Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).

    The CDU won 33 percent of the votes against the SPD's 31.2 percent — a significant blow to Schulz, particularly because North Rhine-Westphalia is his home state and a heartland of the SPD. Merkel's party put on 6.7 percent, compared to the previous election and the SPD lost 7.9 percent. 

    Merkel's party also won the regional elections in Schleswig-Holstein, May 2017 and Saarland, March 2017, further knocking the wind out of Schulz's sails German media quickly jumped to dub the North Rhine-Westphalia result a "political earthquake" that many see as paving the way for a Merkel victory in the federal election in September.

    When Schulz originally stood for the leadership battle, he was seen as a strong candidate and the polls showed his to be a threat to Merkel. However, his success appears to be short-lived, with some putting his failures down to being too closely connected to the Brussels machine, after his stint at the EP president.

     European Parliament President Martin Schulz, left, talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels (File)
    © AP Photo/ Yves Logghe
    European Parliament President Martin Schulz, left, talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels (File)

    Poll Reversal

    In March, 2017, a poll found that 44 percent of voters would prefer Schulz to form the next government, rather than Merkel.

    Although the SPD and CDU/CSU were then neck and neck in the polls — both on 32 percent — which would lead to another coalition government, most Germans wanted it to be led by Schulz, rather than Merkel, who is facing her toughest election since becoming chancellor in 2005.

    In just a matter of a few weeks, the situation has reversed with Merkel — despite drawing criticism over her "open doors" policy on refugees — now buoyant and looking set for her fourth term.

    Related:

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    SPD Head Schulz Says Shocked by Attack on Borussia Dortmund’s Team Bus
    Merkel Slips in Polls as Majority Calls for Ex-EU Chief Schulz to Form Gov't
    German SPD Party Headed by Schulz Optimistic Ahead of Regional Election
    Germany's SPD Conference Approves Schulz as Party Chief, Chancellor Nominee
    Tags:
    German elections, election, German federal election 2017, Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), Angela Merkel, Martin Schulz, Germany, Europe
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