Chancellor Angela Merkel's party seeks decisive victory in North Rhine-Westphalia, a bellwether state, against centre-left Social Democratic Party, four months before the national elections.
Polls opened in Germany's most populous North Rhine-Westphalia state on Sunday to elect a new regional parliament for the sprawling industrial region, which has a large migrant population and has been the bastion of Chancellor Angela Merkel's rival for decades. About 13.1 million eligible voters are expected to cast ballots with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party hoping to deal a crushing blow to Social Democratic Party (SPD) four months before the national elections. Surveys ahead of the vote show the centre-left SPD running neck-and-neck with Merkel's party, with some even placing the CDU ahead. The surveys were the latest indication that initial enthusiasm for the new SPD leader, Martin Schulz, could be fizzling out, who faces CDU candidate Armin Laschet.