Chancellor Olaf Scholz's centre-left party won a German state election on Sunday night, according to exit polls and a partial count of votes.
The vote came as the country faces high inflation and worries about energy supplies this winter, projections showed.
Scholz's Social Democrats, whose nationwide polling has been weak recently as the government in Berlin grapples with ways to keep down Germans' energy bills, had a respected longtime regional governor to thank for their performance in Lower Saxony. The sprawling northwestern state of nearly 8 million people has strong industrial and agricultural sectors.
Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and partial counting, showed the Social Democrats leading with around 33% of the vote, with the main opposition party at national level, the centre-right Christian Democrats, polling around 28%.
That was a lower score for both parties than five years ago. The Greens, the second-biggest party in the national government, were projected to take around 14% of the vote and the far-right Alternative for Germany 11-12%.
In Lower Saxony, the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats have governed together for the past five years. Pre-election polls showed voters preferring centre-left governor Stephan Weil, who has led the state since 2013, over his centre-right challenger and current deputy governor, Bernd Althusmann.