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Exit polls showed on Sunday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party has won North Rhine-Westphalia state election.
CDU secured 34.4 per cent of the vote, ahead of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) that got 30.6 per cent, according to prognosis made by German local media ZDF and ARD.
Sunday's vote was the last state election before the September 24 federal election, and was widely seen as a vital pre-duel between Merkel's CDU and ex-president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz's SPD.
The result could greatly boost the morale of CDU in the national election, since so far it has scored success in three state elections this year, namely in Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia.
North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous among the German states with nearly 18 million residents accounting for 20 percent of Germany's population. About 13.2 million eligible voters will choose among more than 1,300 candidates from 31 parties.
The industrial state has been governed by a center-left coalition of the SPD and the Greens since 2010, with the Social Democrat Hannelore Kraft serving as state premier.