© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: AfD Federal Spokesperson Tino Chrupalla delivers a speech during the last election campaign rally of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party ahead of the Saxony-Anhalt state elections on the Domplatz in Magdeburg, Germany, June 4, 2021.
WITTENBERG, Germany (Reuters) – The eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt began voting on Sunday in the last test of public opinion ahead of September’s national elections, one that could deal a blow to hopes. Conservative Armin Laschet to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Polls in the state show a small lead for Laschet and Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), but the far-right alternative for Germany (AfD) was one percentage point behind in the final poll released on Friday.
In casting his vote, the state’s Conservative Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff said he had done everything he could to persuade voters in the relatively poor region not to turn to the far right.
“I have done everything necessary and possible to persuade people that we need stability and a democratic center,” he told reporters in his hometown of Wittenberg, where in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 critical theses to the Pope at the door of a church. thus igniting the Protestant Reformation.
Though most polls give the CDU a more comfortable lead, an AfD victory could deal a potentially crippling blow to centrist Laschet’s electoral hopes, emboldening those on the right in his party who want a decisive break with the years of Merkel.
Merkel, in power since 2005, is retiring after federal elections, and senior CDU officials admit that it will be difficult to maintain her party’s appeal to voters after 16 years in office.
National polls show the rising Greens nearly tied with the CDU, with both having around a quarter of the vote, leading to the poll in Saxony-Anhalt, a sparsely populated state of just 2.2 million, enormous importance.
The AfD generally performs better in the former communist east, where the economy is weaker than in the west. Its strength in Saxony-Anhalt has already focused the debate on the CDU’s relations with the political right.
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