The centre-right CDU heads for a major state election victory in Germany

VIENNA (AP) — The center-right Christian Democratic Union appeared headed for a clear victory Sunday in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, according to exit polls.

Sunday’s election to the state legislature was seen as a test of popularity at the polls for Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz’s government amid its handling of the war in Ukraine. The vote appeared to give the CDU, former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, which opposes the Scholz government at the national level, a strong victory after a series of electoral defeats.

ARD and ZDF television exit polls put Sunday’s support for the CDU at 41% to 43%, well ahead of the other parties. Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats appeared to drop to third place behind the Greens, with exit polls showing them winning 15.5% to 16% compared to 17% to 19.5% for the Greens.

These exit polls indicate that incumbent Governor Daniel Günther, whose CDU has led Schleswig-Holstein since 2017, governing in a coalition with environmental Greens and pro-business Free Democrats, is on track to secure another term in the state. northernmost part of Germany, home to approximately 2.9 million people.

The vote came after a turbulent few months for Social Democrat Scholz, who took office in December at the head of a three-party coalition government with the Greens and Free Democrats. In recent weeks, Scholz has faced criticism for his approach to the war in Ukraine.

Germany broke with tradition after Russia’s invasion to supply weapons to Ukraine, but has been criticized by kyiv for its apparent hesitation and slowness in supplying material.

Sunday’s election was the second of three state elections in two months that will set the political tone in Germany for the coming year.

At the end of March, Scholz’s Social Democrats won a major victory in the small western state of Saarland, which the CDU had led since 1999. The most important vote, on May 15, will be held in Germany’s most populous state, the Rhineland. North-Westphalia.

The vote is a bright spot for the CDU, which has suffered losses at the state and national level in recent months. After last fall’s general election, the party was relegated to opposition at the national level for the first time in 16 years.

Compared to five years ago, the CDU and the Sunday Greens appear to have made significant gains, while the Social Democrats suffered heavy losses. During the last state elections in 2017, the CDU won 32%, followed by the Social Democrats with 27.3% and the Greens with 12.9%.

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