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> Victories by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Conservative party in local elections on Sunday suggests Europe's most powerful leader is on track to survive a national election this September. The vote in Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia is seen as a bellwether because about 20% of German voters live there.
And Merkel's Christian Democrats surged. Local media reporting the party, pulled in 33% of the vote, up 7% from the last election in 2012. Their chief rival, the Social Democrats, took away 31%, an 8 point fall. It's their third loss in local elections since March. Merkel's been buoyed by strong economic growth year over year and expanding German influence in the European Union and abroad.
Her long tenure and pull toward the center luring back cautious voters. But while this win may bring a sigh of relief for her party, the fight is far from over. The Social Democrats have tapped the former leader of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz to challenge her in the general election.
He's running on a platform of riding perceived social inequalities, and the Chancellor's immigration policies, admitting over a million, mainly Muslim asylum seekers, has sapped her popularity and fueled far right political foes. A long way to go until September.