Germany: Merkel party holds on as strongest in local vote

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have held on as the strongest party in municipal elections in a western German state despite a dip in support, while an upstart nationalist party fell short of 10 percent of the vote.

Results from Sunday's elections for councils in Lower Saxony, in Germany's northwest, showed Merkel's Christian Democrats winning 34.4 percent support overall, down 2.6 points from five years ago. Results released Monday showed their center-left rivals, the Social Democrats, slipping 3.7 points to 31.2 percent.

The nationalist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, finished in fourth place with 7.8 percent.

The local voting in Lower Saxony was sandwiched between two state elections, a more important test of sentiment. The eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania voted Sept. 4 and Berlin votes Sept. 18.