German center-right hopes to hold key state amid flood flap

BERLIN (AP) — The head of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party said Friday he’s hopeful of winning a key state election next month despite a flap over some party members’ response to last year’s devastating flood.

The Christian Democratic Union is in opposition at the federal level, but currently leads a coalition government in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, where an election is due on May 15.

The party’s environment minister resigned this week after it emerged that she had returned to a holiday in Spain despite the ongoing cleanup operation following the flood last July that claimed dozens of lives in her state.

Party leader Friedrich Merz said there was nevertheless “no reason at all for pessimism.”

“On the contrary, I believe that we stand a really very, very good chance of winning the state election in North Rhine-Westphalia.”

Recent polls indicate a close race between the Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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