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Bavaria elections: Voters at polls in divisive vote

In what some have described as a bellwether for German politics, millions of Bavarians are casting their votes in state elections. With the CSU expecting a poor performance, the poll could spell trouble for Merkel.

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Analysts predict shake-up in Bavarian election

Bavarians headed to the polls on Sunday in a historical vote to elect a regional parliament and government that could see the long-ruling Christian Social Union (CSU) lose their absolute majority in the state legislature.

The election could spell trouble for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's fragile coalition government, which comprises her Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian sister party, the CSU, and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

Polls suggest:

  • The CSU could take a beating and pickup 33 percent of the vote, down from 47.7 percent in 2013.
  • The Greens could make a strong showing with 18 percent of the vote, up from 8.6 percent in 2013.
  • The SPD could suffer a devastating result with 11 percent, down from 20.6 percent in 2013.
  • The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) could enter the regional parliament with 10 percent.

Read more: The surprising success of Germany's Green party

Why is it a big deal?

If the CSU performs as badly as polls suggest, it could cause instability within Merkel's government. Her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, leads the CSU and gave up his premiership of Bavaria for a spot in the federal government.

Seehofer has nearly torpedoed the government in his pursuit of hard-line policies on irregular migration. He has criticized Merkel's open-door policy for refugees. Observers have suggested he could resign if the CSU performs poorly. Some analysts believe Merkel could benefit from that in the short-term.

Read more: Why the Bavarian election matters for Angela Merkel

Why is the CSU polling so poorly?

While it's hard to pinpoint the exact cause, there are plenty of factors to take into account.

The AfD appears to have pulled support from the CSU's conservative base with its hard-line policy vision. Some observers have suggested that Seehofer's divisive role in the federal government has also contributed to a loss of support in Bavaria.

Instead of playing up migration, the CSU's Markus Söder, who serves as the Bavarian premier, has opted for another option, such as casting an inclusive and prosperous image of the state. He is crediting his party for the state's economic performance and low unemployment. But its unclear that will turn into votes.

Read more: Bavaria's Christian Social Union: What you need to know

Markus Söder casts his vote in the Bavarian elections

Markus Söder has tried to boost the CSU's image ahead of the vote

How many people can vote?

More than 9.4 million people are eligible to cast their vote in the state election. According to the latest polls, roughly half of them were undecided as of earlier this week.

When will preliminary results be released?

The first projected results based on an amalgamation of exit polls will be released at 6 p.m. local time (16:00 UTC). Official results will be released later.

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