Merkel ahead in Germany; rivals embarrassed

The conservatives of German Chancellor Angela Merkel were headed for a center-right majority and her center-left rivals faced a crushing defeat in European Parliament elections, exit polls showed Sunday - less than four months before a national vote. ARD and ZDF television polls showed support for Merkel's Democratic Union and its Bavaria-only sister, the Christian Social Union, at up to 38.5 percent. They showed the Social Democrats of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier - Merkel's challenger in September 27 national elections - scoring 21.5 percent at best. That is the same as in 2004, when they led an unpopular center-left government. That score was their worst since World War II in a nationwide election.