Voters in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania are going to the polls in a vote seen as a test of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policies towards migrants and refugees.
The anti-migrant and anti-Islam Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) could get more votes than Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).
This would weaken Angela Merkel ahead of national elections in 2017.
However, all Germany’s other parties have ruled out forming a governing coalition with the AfD.
So the AfD stands no chance of forming a government in the state.
Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, in the former East Germany, is where Angela Merkel’s own constituency is located.
Polls show Merkel’s CDU polling behind the AfD, and the chancellor told voters in the state: “It’s going to be a tight race – every vote counts.”
One voting intentions poll showed the centre-left Social Democrats first with 28%, while the AfD edged ahead of the CDU with 23% to 20%.
The AfD is believed to be attracting voters away from the center-right CDU.
Germany is taking in large numbers of refugees – 1.1 million in 2015 – and anti-immigrant feeling has increased.
The AfD, initially an anti-euro party, has become the outlet of choice for voters frustrated by the chancellor’s policy of welcoming migrants.
The party’s slogan nationwide is: “Let’s end asylum chaos.”
On September 3, Angela Merkel told Bild newspaper: “We did not reduce benefits for anyone in Germany as a result of the aid for refugees. In fact, we actually saw social improvements in some areas.
“We took nothing away from people here. We are still achieving our big goal of maintaining and improving the quality of life in Germany.”
Only 2% of refugees arriving in Germany have gone to live in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.