Voters in Saxony, which borders Poland and the Czech Republic, and neighboring Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin, elected new state legislatures on Sunday. All eyes were on the performance of the far-right Alternative for Germany, which is strongest in the country's ex-communist east.
Exit polls for ARD and ZDF television showed the party winning over 27% of the vote in Saxony. That is a few points behind Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right party, which governs the state. In Brandenburg, the party was seen winning up to 24.5%, to finish a few points behind the governing center-left Social Democrats.
Two states in eastern Germany are holding elections that could bring big gains for a far-right party, further destabilize Chancellor Angela Merkel's national government and highlight continuing cracks in German unity nearly 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Voters in Saxony, a region of around 4.1 million people bordering Poland and the Czech Republic, and neighboring Brandenburg, which has 2.5 million inhabitants and surrounds Berlin, elect new state legislatures on Sunday.
The formerly communist east has become a stronghold for the 6-year-old Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which is hoping for a possible first-place finish in at least one state. Saxony has been governed since German reunification by Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and Brandenburg by the center-left Social Democrats, its partners in the national government.