Angela Merkel’s CDU buoyed by surprise election result

Angela Merkel’s party won a resounding victory over the populist right in its final test at the ballot box before the autumn general election.

After a torrid start to the year, the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) confounded the pollsters last night with its most comfortable first-place finish in years.

The state election in Saxony-Anhalt, part of what used to be communist East Germany, had been cast as a key test for Armin Laschet, the CDU’s candidate to replace Merkel in September.

The hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) had seemed to be heading for one of its best results, with one poll suggesting it could emerge as the strongest force. In the end the CDU was on track to defeat the AfD by 16 points, according to projections.

The preliminary result looks like an unexpected triumph for Laschet, 60, and will cement his authority over the CDU and its unruly Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.

The CDU was projected to win 37 per cent of the vote to the AfD’s 20.8 per cent. This would be its biggest margin of victory at state level since 2014 and end a long run of poor regional results…

Paul Ziemiak, the CDU general-secretary, hailed a “sensational” performance by his party. However, it is unclear to what extent it truly represents a vote of confidence in Laschet rather than the local electorate’s determination to keep the AfD at bay. It is also likely to reflect the popularity of Saxony-Anhalt’s CDU chief minister, Reiner Haseloff, 67, whose personal approval ratings in the state are higher than Merkel’s. Haseloff said he “couldn’t quite believe” the result and it showed what was possible when the CDU set out a “clear dividing line” against the AfD.

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