Ruling party faces stern test in Merkel's home state
Polls opened Sunday in the north-eastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, with the ruling CDU party of Chancellor Angela Merkel hoping to stop the rot after a string of defeats in regional polls this year.
AP - A northeastern German state was holding an election Sunday, with the country’s main opposition parties hoping for gains in a region where Chancellor Angela Merkel has her parliamentary constituency.
The vote in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania - the sixth of seven state elections this year - comes with Merkel’s center-right national government struggling in polls.
Over the coming weeks, she faces the task of swinging skeptical lawmakers in Berlin behind the latest eurozone rescue measures. That adds to issues such as this year’s abrupt policy switch on nuclear power and constant internal squabbling over tax cuts that have undermined center-right support.
Also at issue in the election in Sunday’s election was whether the far-right National Democratic Party retains seats in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s state legislature. It is one of only two regions where the party has local lawmakers.
About 1.4 million people were eligible to vote in the sparsely populated state on the Baltic Sea coast - an economically struggling region that was once part of communist East Germany.
It is currently run by a left-right "grand coalition" of the center-left Social Democrats, who provide governor Erwin Sellering, and Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats.
Polls before Sunday’s vote suggested that the Social Democrats, who are in opposition nationally, could hope to extend their lead over Merkel’s party.
They also suggested the opposition Greens, whose national poll ratings are strong, should top the 5 percent of the vote needed to enter the state legislature in a region where they have long been weak.
But the pro-business Free Democrats, the junior partners in Merkel’s national coalition, appear at risk of losing their seats. The party has taken much of the blame for squabbling in the government.
While Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has limited national weight, other regional votes this year have been troublesome for Merkel. In March, her party lost a key state it had governed for more than 50 years to the opposition.