Published: Thu, March 30, 2017
Culture | By Julio Duncan

Trump handed Merkel $374B North Atlantic Treaty Organisation bill during talks

Trump handed Merkel $374B North Atlantic Treaty Organisation bill during talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday celebrated an encouraging win for her conservatives in a state election, declaring that her party has "every chance" in upcoming votes.

Polls in two states holding elections in May show the CDU trailing the SPD, offering Schulz a possible boost before the national campaign's endgame in August and September.

"We have made mighty gains, while support for the enemies of democracy has dropped off in ways that no one has expected", Schultz said.

The right-wing, nationalist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) managed to get 6.2 percent of the vote and will have three seats in the Saarland parliament.

The bill is said to take into account how much Germany underspent by since 2002, when Chancellor Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, pledged to spend more on defence.

A Deutschlandtrend poll for national TV on 24 March suggested the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the SPD were on level pegging nationally, but that voters favoured Mr Schulz to lead the next government in Berlin.

Merkel's CDU came in first place with around 40 percent of the vote, while the SPD trailed in second place with just over 29 percent.

The CDU has governed the state for 18 years.

However, Conservative governor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer seemed to have brought the Schulz phenomenon to a screeching halt. Instead, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union posted its biggest win in the state in 13 years, after a campaign that included raising the specter of the anti-capitalist Left party entering the state government.

Saarland is traditionally a conservative state with a majority Catholic population.

The centre-left Sueddeutsche newspaper said the poll had been a crushing reality check for the SPD.

Merkel's CDU had suffered a string of state poll setbacks in the wake of her decision in 2015 to open the borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees, mainly from strife-ravaged Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The regional elections in Saarland are a barometer for the so-called "Schulz effect", after he was elected to head the SPD a week ago with 100 per cent of the votes of his party colleagues.

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".

Another leftist party - the ecologist Greens, possible candidates for a future "red-red-green" national coalition - meanwhile scored less than 5% meaning they missed the hurdle for parliamentary representation and were kicked out of the state assembly.

"After 9/11, NATO's main vocation became fighting terrorism in Afghanistan", Alexander Vershbow, the former deputy secretary general of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, told the New York Times in January.

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