Right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) is expected to record strong support in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state elections today, reflecting a growing discontent with Chancellor Angela Merkel and her open-door refugee policy.
About 1.33 million voters are electing a new regional parliament for the northeastern state, which is also home to Merkel's constituency Stralsund.
Merkel's refugee policy draws voters' anguish
The elections take place exactly a year after Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees. The vote in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state also comes close on the heels of another key vote in Berlin to be held in two weeks and national elections scheduled for next September.
Albeit her decision drew praise initially, the mood has since turned, giving way to fears over how Europe's biggest economy will manage to integrate the million people who arrived last year alone.
Earlier in March, Merkel faced voters' anguish when AfD won by a clear margin in three state elections and her Christian Democrats was rejected.
Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere, a fellow Christian Democrat, however, has rejected criticism from some in the CDU's Christian Social Union (CSU) sister party that Merkel's refugee policy was responsible for the rise of the AfD party, according to a Reuters report.
AfD growing stronger
Reuters report underlines the results of a poll released by German broadcaster ZDF on Friday that showed the AfD capturing 22 per cent of the vote in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The CDU was seen winning the same amount, while the Social Democrats, senior partner in the ruling coalition, was seen as likely to win 28 per cent.
After scoring strong results in three key state elections this year, AfD is now represented on the opposition benches of half of Germany's 16 regional parliaments.
Political analyst Hajo Funke told AFP that the AfD will win 25 per cent of the vote and become the second biggest party in the state, after the SPD
However, days ahead of Sunday's vote, Merkel urged the population to reject AfD.
"The more the people who go to vote, the less the percentage won by some parties that, in my view, have no solution for problems and which are built mainly around a protest, often with hate," she told broadcaster NDR in an interview.
But her decision has left her increasingly isolated in Europe drawing ire of own conservative allies.
Compared to other states across Germany, the northeastern Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania hosts just a small proportion of migrants under a quota system based on states' income and population, having taken in 25,000 asylum seekers last year.
(WION with inputs from AFP, Reuters)