Merkel's sweeping victory in state election dims "Schultz effect"

German chancellor Angela Merkel's election challenger says party will not be put off after poor polling

Angela Merkel's election victory in Saarland state delivered a reality check in this year's contest for the chancellery, underscoring the challenge facing the Social Democratic Party trying to deny her a fourth term.

Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament but a newcomer to national politics, has boosted his party's long-moribund poll ratings and injected it with new self-confidence.

"This much is clear after the CDU success in Saarland: the SPD had better get ready for a tough campaign", it said.

The right-wing populist AfD party, which had seized on voter outrage and angst over the issue, won seats in Saarland Sunday, its 11th state, but with an anaemic six-percent result.

The Greens, which captured only 4.5 per cent of the ballots, will remain out of the regional chamber as they did not exceed the 5 per cent vote threshold.

The state election was the first of three key tests that the political parties will face in the coming months.

A survey by pollster Emnid for weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag earlier showed that support for the SPD had risen slightly from a week ago and the centre-left party was tied with Merkel's conservative bloc on 33 percent nationally.

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Social Democratic Party, SPD, chairman and top candidate in the upcoming general elections Martin Schulz gives a statement after first projections of the state election in German state Saarland announced at the party's headquarters in Berlin, Sunday, March 26, 2017.

Merkel's Christian Democrats easily beat challenger Martin Schulz's center-left Social Democrats in Saarland state on Sunday.

The German government has denied receiving a "bill" or an "invoice" amounting to billions of dollars "owed" by Germany to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

This election result demands anyone, who has been discounting Merkel's win in September based on polls should have a second thought.

"The CDU has demonstrated an outstanding result with 40.7 percent of votes with a significant growth in turnout when compared with the previous election in the Landtag (State Diet) and with a growth in support numbers", Merkel said. Side-by-side we campaigned here, both the federal party and us.

Schulz conceded that the Social Democrats' performance fell short of his expectations, but said it wouldn't deflect the party from its goal and told supporters to "look ahead with confidence".

"Lafontaine is a polarising figure even in big swathes of the SPD and that surely didn't help us", Maas told ZDF television. Polls suggest this was because the electorate felt more positive about the prospect of repeating the CDU-led "grand coalition" than seeing Die Linke have a role in governing the state.

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