A regional election in Germany is shaping up to be a damaging defeat for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats.
Early results show the opposition Christian Democrats, led by Peter Harry Carstensen, are slightly ahead in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Heide Simonis, the Social Democrat president of the region, had been leading in the opinion polls.
The Greens appear to have upped their share of the vote, while the liberal Free Democrats are slightly down.
A conservative victory in what is a traditional left-wing stronghold would be a very bad sign for Schroeder, who faces a general election next year.
His party came under mounting pressure in the run-up to the vote because of rising unemployment and a scandal over a visa policy that let thousands of illegal immigrants into Germany.