31 March, 2017
The Left party (Linke) was reported to have won 13 percent of the votes, Alternative for Germany (AfD) 6 percent and the Greens 4.5 percent.
But this does not necessarily mean the party would follow a similar path in the election for the Bundestag later this year, said Merkel, who has governed in coalition with the SPD for two of her three terms as chancellor.
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) easily beat the Social Democrats (SPD) in Saarland State, although a tighter race was expected after the Social Democrats were boosted in polls by nominating Martin Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament.
After weeks of breathless media coverage of the so-called "Schulz effect", credited with lifting the SPD around 10 points in national polls to pull even with the CDU, news website Spiegel Online said the election proved he had "no magic powers".
The state contest pits Saarland's prime minister, 54-year-old Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, against her deputy in the regional government, the SPD's Anke Rehlinger, 40.
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"The fact remains that we're improving - that's true of Saarland as well", Schulz said at his party headquarters in Berlin on Monday.
"It will be a hard election campaign and we have every chance", she added.
Two more state elections are scheduled for May. "The SPD will recognize that it is still a long way to taking over the chancellery in September". Mr. Schultz, who campaigned vigorously in this local election, received 29.6 percent of all votes, down from 30.4 percent in the previous election. The party chairpersons didn't rule out a left-wing victory over the conservatives at the national level in September and said that Sunday's result was closer than it appeared.
"NATO is of prime importance for us, and it was not without very good reason that we said during our summit meeting in Wales that also Germany needs to increase expenditure". Their parties are in Germany's current ruling coalition government.
But the biggest challenge will be the western state of North-Rhine-Westphalia which has more than 17m inhabitants and on the 14 May will be viewed as a test running of the general election. But the Greens, who would nearly certainly have to be part of any governing left-wing coalition at the national level, failed to clear the five-percent hurdle needed for parliamentary representation in the southwest German state.