German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party extended its lead in the Saarland state elections, winning a projected 41% of the votes, up from the 35% it won in 2012.
The vote is the first of three state elections before September’s elections, in which SPD candidate Martin Schulz is challenging Merkel’s bid for a fourth term, having revitalized his party since taking over.
The election is the first test of the so-called “Schulz effect,” where SPD leaders were hoping to make gains, and possibly form government with the Green Party, the Left Party, or both. If exit polls hold, the Green Party will not win enough votes to be represented, while the SPD will fall from 31% of the votes in 2012 to 29.5%.
The far-right Alternative for Germany Party is expected to be represented in parliament, making Saarland the 9th of 11 German states where the party is represented, as it hopes to enter the Bundestag for the first time in its history in September.
A continuation of the current CDU-SPD Grand Coalition, under incumbent Minister-President Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.