Merkel's party wins in state election

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party has won in a state election in eastern Germany held on Sunday.

Preliminary results show the center-right Christian Democratic Union won 37.1 percent of the vote in the race for Saxony-Anhalt's state assembly. That's up more than 7 percentage points from the previous election.

The Christian Democrats will remain the largest force in the assembly.

The far-right party Alternative for Germany secured 20.8 percent of the vote, down more than 3 percentage points. The AfD will remain the second-largest force.

The Christian Democrats had struggled to rally support under its new leader, Armin Laschet. Laschet took the party's helm in January.

German media say the popularity of Saxony-Anhalt's state premier buoyed the party. They say voters also gave high marks to the governing coalition's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The government has eased restrictions after the situation in the country improved.

Sunday's poll is seen as a bellwether for a national parliamentary election in September.