BERLIN (Reuters) - An ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel took office as premier of Germany's most populous state of North Rhine Westfalia on Tuesday, providing a boost to her conservative bloc ahead of a parliamentary election due in September.
Armin Laschet led the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to a surprise victory in the western state in May, promising better policing and measures to boost economic growth in a state that has been hit by a decline in traditional heavy industries.
Laschet will govern in coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) in the state.
The FDP, which is running third in national opinion polls, is seen as a likely kingmaker after the September election.
Analysts say a successful regional coalition with the CDU could strengthen voter support for a CDU-FDP tie-up after the national election.
Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Gareth Jones