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Germany's regional elections are a big test for Merkel

Germany's regional elections are a big test for Merkel
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By Catherine Hardy with Reuters
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Votes in three states risk undermining the German Chancellor's policies and eroding her power base

  • Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhine-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt go to the polls
  • AfD could make big gains
  • Debate about refugee crisis expected to dominate
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Germany’s chancellor faces a big test at home this weekend.

Three German states vote in elections that risk eroding Angela Merkel’s base and undermining the migrant policy on which she has staked her legacy.

Voters in three states – two in the west and one in the former east – have the opportunity to give their verdict on the 61-year’s political performance.

The context

Germany's Anti-Mass Migration AfD Party Calls For Six-Metre Fence Ahead Of Elections https://t.co/b6VzRj4PTBpic.twitter.com/Sp8JV2T2ZK

— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 10, 2016

Snapping at the heels of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) is the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Observers say their hardline stance against migration could bring big gains in all three states voting on Sunday.

Founded only in 2013, the AfD has morphed from an anti-euro bailout party into an anti-immigration electoral force.

Merkel’s CDU is leaching support to the AfD in all three states.

What and where

The three regions are Baden Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west. Saxony-Anhalt is in the east.

They have a combined population of around 17 million, one-fifth of Germany’s 81 million total.

A fractured electorate leans right in Germany’s Saxony-Anhalt https://t.co/SBXqVMrWAqpic.twitter.com/yuOnpMQRyb

— dwnews (@dwnews) March 8, 2016

Saxony-Anhalt

  • AfD strongest here
  • Unemployment over 10%
  • Polls give AfD up to 19% support
  • Prediction is a weakened CDU will still come in first

Politbarometer extra vor Wahl in Baden-Württemberg: Grüne 32%, CDU 29%, SPD 14%, FDP 6%, AfD 11%, Linke 4% pic.twitter.com/qBQVX0mLzS

— ZDF heute (@ZDFheute) March 10, 2016

Baden-Wuerttemberg

  • CDU stronghold for more than 50 years
  • Green-led coalition with SPD in 2011
  • Green’s state premier Winfried Kretschmann poised to win

Can #Merkel see the end of her era as CDU Clone Rhineland-Palatinate candidate Julia #Klöckner grabs the limelight pic.twitter.com/OOBSU41JCM

— Greig Markham (@BearGardenMan) March 11, 2016

Rhineland-Palatinate

  • Potential swing-state
  • 43-year-old Julia Kloeckner neck-and-neck with SPD incumbent Malu Dreyer

What they are thinking

A poll has put support for Merkel at its highest this year, predicting her winning 50% of votes in a hypothetical presidential-style election against SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel on 13%.

What they are saying

“I see this protest opposition movement (AfD) as a means to teach the established parties, among them us, to act on the migrant crisis, in a credible way that is good for Germany in the long run as well as for our system of values in general.” -*Reiner Haseloff, premier of eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt*.

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