BERLIN (Reuters) – Bavaria's Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to achieve her worst election result in more than 60 years on Sunday in a regional vote, which should boost tensions in the fragile German coalition government.
The chairman of the Christian-Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer and the Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder appear in an election campaign of the CSU on October 1
In recent polls, the CSU will win about 34 percent, losing the absolute majority that dominated the south-eastern heartland for most of the post-war period.
The polling stations are open at 8 am (0600 GMT), and broadcasters are expected to release polls shortly after 6 pm (1600 GMT).
Among the biggest winners should be the green Greens, which more than double their share of votes to 19 percent and overtake the left-liberal Social Democrats (SPD) as the second strongest party.
The regional protest party "Free Voters" and the "Anti-Immigration Alternative for Germany" (AfD) are both expected to receive around 10 percent of the vote.
This could complicate the efforts of the CSU Prime Minister Markus Soeder to establish a stable coalition government in Bavaria.
The fragmented election results could force Söder, who has ruled out a coalition with the AfD, into an embarrassing alliance with the left-centered Greens.
Horst Seehofer, CSU party leader and interior minister in Merkel's federal government, may be confronted with the demand to give up at least one of his posts after the election in Bavaria, as his harsh rhetoric against asylum seekers is likely to scare away voters.
"We have lost confidence because of the CSU," said Volker Bouffier, deputy party chairman of the CDU, Welt am Sonntag. He accused Seehofer of damaging the image of the CDU / CSU conservative alliance.
Bouffier is Prime Minister in Hesse, where more regional elections will take place later this month.
Seehofer was one of Merkel's most vehement critics after she decided in 2015 to welcome more than 1 million migrants. He has gradually moved the CSU, the sister party of the CDU, to the right to counteract the rise of the AfD party.
The split between conservative allies has worsened since March when an inconclusive national election forced them to form a coalition with the left-wing SPD.
Merkel's fourth and probably last government has twice been on the verge of collapse, in clashes over immigration and a scandal over the former German espionage master. The parties are also arguing over how environmentally-damaging diesel cars are being phased out and tax cuts are being made for the rich.
Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Clelia Oziel