As millions of Germans vote in regional elections on Sunday, Angela Merkel says she is keeping her fingers crossed.
The Chancellor’s Christian Democrats (CDU) are widely expected to face a voter backlash over her high-risk decision last year to open Germany’s borders to refugees fleeing war in Syria.
Three polls are taking place – in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and
Saxony-Anhalt in the east.
On the campaign trail this weekend, Merkel passionately defended her migrant policy, telling a CDU rally in Baden-Wuerttemberg that: “People are suddenly there and need protection”.
The refugee influx, totaling more than a million last year alone, has come to define Merkel’s
leadership. In power for over a decade, she has staked her reputation on it.
But her conservatives have been losing support to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has profited from the growing unease.
Already represented in five of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments, the nationalists look set to burst into three more, campaigning on slogans such as “Secure the borders” and “Stop the asylum chaos”.
Whatever the outcome of Sunday’s vote, it will provide an interesting snapshot of where the parties stand ahead of a general election in 2017.
In the meantime, Merkel can take heart from an opinion poll last week that put her personal popularity at its highest level this year.