Europe

Merkel party seen winning state vote as election year starts

  • Saarland's Governor and top candidate of the Christian Democrats, CDU, for the state election Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leaves the polling station after casting her vote in Puettlingen, Germany, Sunday, March 26, 2017. The state election in the western German state of Saarland offers German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives a tough test against their resurgent center-left rivals six months before Merkel seeks a fourth term in a national vote. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP)

    Saarland's Governor and top candidate of the Christian Democrats, CDU, for the state election Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leaves the polling station after casting her vote in Puettlingen, Germany, Sunday, March 26, 2017. The state election in the western German state of Saarland offers German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives a tough test against their resurgent center-left rivals six months before Merkel seeks a fourth term in a national vote. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Top candidate of the Social Democrats, SPD, Anke Rehlinger gestures after casting her vote for Saarland's state election in Nunkirchen, Germany, Sunday, March 26, 2017. The state election in the western German state offers German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives a tough test against their resurgent center-left rivals six months before Merkel seeks a fourth term in a national vote. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)

    Top candidate of the Social Democrats, SPD, Anke Rehlinger gestures after casting her vote for Saarland's state election in Nunkirchen, Germany, Sunday, March 26, 2017. The state election in the western German state offers German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives a tough test against their resurgent center-left rivals six months before Merkel seeks a fourth term in a national vote. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Social Democratic Party, SPD, chairman and top candidate in the upcoming general elections Martin Schulz closes his eyes as he gives a statement after first projections of the state election in German state Saarland have been announced at the party's headquarters in Berlin, Sunday, March 26, 2017. Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party has emerged easily as the strongest party from an election in Germany's western Saarland state — an unexpectedly strong performance and a disappointment for her center-left rivals. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

    Social Democratic Party, SPD, chairman and top candidate in the upcoming general elections Martin Schulz closes his eyes as he gives a statement after first projections of the state election in German state Saarland have been announced at the party's headquarters in Berlin, Sunday, March 26, 2017. Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party has emerged easily as the strongest party from an election in Germany's western Saarland state — an unexpectedly strong performance and a disappointment for her center-left rivals. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)  (The Associated Press)

Exit polls indicate that Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party has emerged easily as the strongest party from an election in Germany's western Saarland state — an unexpectedly strong performance and a disappointment for her center-left rivals.

The exit polls for ARD and ZDF public television showed Merkel's Christian Democrats polling up to 41 percent in Sunday's election for Saarland's state legislature. The polls had their center-left rivals, the Social Democrats, receiving up to 30 percent of the vote.

Surveys ahead of the election — the first of three state votes scheduled before Merkel seeks a fourth term in a national election in September — suggested that the Social Democrats might be able to form a new coalition with the Left Party, which polled some 13 percent.

The nationalist Alternative for Germany was seen entering the state legislature with 6 percent of the vote.