German Chancellor Angela Merkel conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) won 34.5 percent of the vote in North Rhine-Westphalia’s state election on Sunday, initial exit polls showed.
The polls showed the SPD coming in second, garnering 30.5 percent of the vote in its stronghold state.
The business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) came in third, taking 12 percent of the vote.
The populist AfD will also enter North Rhine-Westphalia’s parliament for the first time, picking up 7.5 percent.
The Green party, currently in a ruling coalition with the SPD, took a massive hit, dropping down to 6 percent.
The Left party eked out 5 percent of the vote, just clearing the hurdle to remain in the state parliament.
Voter turnout was markedly higher than four years prior, officials said, with 65.6 percent turning out to cast their ballots.
Over 13 million of NRW’s 18 million residents were eligible to vote in Sunday’s election – the most registered voters than any other German state. The SPD currently rules in coalition with the Greens who have been doing poorly in recent polls.
The CDU was looking to cash in on anger over issues including security, rising crime, immigration and relatively high unemployment.
With its sprawling industrial region and support from workers, NRW has been an SPD stronghold for decades.
A total of 31 parties were on the split ballot, including far-right and far-left groups as well as parties concerned with animal rights.
Big winners after INITIAL EXIT POLLS in crucial German state election:
— dwnews (@dwnews) May 14, 2017
#BREAKING Merkel's party scores decisive win in key German state vote: exit polls
— AFP news agency (@AFP) May 14, 2017
— Ulrich Kühn (@UliTKuehn) May 14, 2017