“This result is a clear rejection of red-red-green”, CDU General Secretary Peter Tauber told reporters in Berlin, using the colour-coded term for an SPD coalition with the Left and Greens. Last month, Schultz had 40 percent and Merkel 34 percent.
Mrs. Merkel, 62, has been chancellor since 2005, and her no-nonsense attitude, strict European ideals and fiscal conservatism are widely viewed as critical to Germany’s prowess as the EU’s economic powerhouse.
“This election shows that governing calmly … impresses people in turbulent times”, he said.
The polls had anticipated a much tighter race between the SPD and CDU.
The Left Party, born from the merger a decade ago of ex-communists with other Left-wingers and relatively strong in Saarland, won 12.9 percent.
The Greens, which captured only 4.5 per cent of the ballots, will remain out of the regional chamber as they did not exceed the 5 per cent vote threshold.
The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) won 6 percent.
For Merkel, the result was a victory for a popular state leader who sits on the CDU’s national leadership board and has broadly backed her open-borders refugee policy.
However, Conservative governor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer seemed to have brought the Schulz phenomenon to a screeching halt. In 2012, the SPD reached 30.6 percent of the votes.
The national election takes place on 24 September but more state elections, in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia, will be held before then. The conservatives have been in power in the state for 18 years.
The former president of the European Parliament took up the post in January.
Schulz is trying to win over dissatisfied working class voters with a message of social justice.
“Our goal is to achieve a change of government in the federal republic (of Germany)”, he said.
“It’s a long-distance run, not a sprint”, Schulz said.
A three-way leftist alliance in Saarland would be the third at state level after Berlin and the eastern region of Thuringia, and could give impetus to a similar format at the national level.