GERMANS VOTE IN REGIONAL POLLS TODAY
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s arch- conservative Bavarian allies are bracing for heavy electoral losses in the southern Alpine state today that could trigger shockwaves in Berlin. The Christian Social Union (CSU), who have almost single-handedly ruled the wealthy beer-and-lederhosen state since the 1960s, are expected to lose their absolute majority, polls say. The other partner in Merkel’s fragile ‘grand coalition,’ the Social Democrats, are also set to do poorly while the far-right and anti-immigration AfD look certain to enter the state assembly. The biggest winners, however, may be the left-leaning Greens who have doubled their poll ratings to around 18 percent since the last state elections, which would make them the second strongest party. Poll booths open at 0600 GMT for almost 10 million eligible voters, and first projections are expected shortly after they close at 1600 GMT. If the surveys prove correct, the Bavarian election will mark another step in the demise of ‘big-tent’ mainstream parties and the fragmentation of the political landscape, as seen in other western democracies. For Merkel, now often labeled a lame duck leader in her fourth and final term, it would further raise political pressure two weeks ahead of another dangerous regional vote, in the central state of Hesse.