Election in Germany's most populous state could boost Merkel

An election in Germany's most populous state is serving as a prelude to September's national vote and could give conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel new momentum in her quest for a fourth term or offer her center-left challenger some relief.

The pressure is on the Social Democrats of challenger Martin Schulz in the election Sunday for the state legislature in North Rhine-Westphalia. Their poll ratings surged after Schulz was nominated in January but have since sagged.

The western state, which includes Cologne, Duesseldorf and the Ruhr industrial region, is a traditional stronghold of Schulz's Social Democrats. They have led its government for all but five years since 1966.

However, polls ahead of the vote now show the Social Democrats neck-and-neck with Merkel's Christian Democrats.



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