German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right party won a state election by large margin, exit polls said Sunday, in an early setback to center-left hopes of unseating her in the September national vote.
Early results from the voting in Saarland state had Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) leading with 40 percent while the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) had around 30 percent.
The SPD was facing its first electoral test since nominating Martin Shultz to face off against Merkel in September.
The party has seen a recent surge in popularity.
Merkel is expected to run for fourth term as chancellor.