Results from Hamburg’s regional election are widely expected to give a bloody nose to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling party.
Defeat in the German state is almost certain to make life harder for Merkel at a national level, handing the opposition control of the upper house parliament in Berlin.
Earlier, the leader of Hamburg’s Social Democrat party Olaf Scholz was all smiles as he urged voters to come out in large numbers in the hope of an outright majority. While victory appears certain he may be forced into a coalition with the Greens.
In contrast, Merkel’s Christian Democrat ally, Christoph Ahlhaus, appeared to be relying on the good weather to galvanise his support. Since taking over as mayor of Hamburg last year the CDU’s popularity has plunged.
The election in Hamburg is the first of seven regional tests for Merkel this year, with the opposition SPD riding high in nationwide polls.