Two Key States in Germany Hold Parliamentary Elections 

Two states in Germany are voting Sunday for their new regional legislatures, six months ahead of general national elections, which will determine who succeeds the country’s longtime chancellor, Angela Merkel.   The votes in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, an economic powerhouse region, and in the neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate state are seen as key for testing the national mood prior to September 26 general elections, in which Merkel will be absent for the first time in more than 15 years. Public opinion polls taken recently have shown that support for Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian conservative ally Christian Social Union  has dropped to about 30% because Germans have been unhappy with the coronavirus crisis management, and with the slow and bureaucratic vaccination campaign. The CDU/CSU reputation has also been damaged by claims that members of parliament from the governing coalition had been profiting from face mask deals, forcing three lawmakers to resign in recent days. Surveys show that in Baden-Wuerttemberg, the only German state with a premier from the left-leaning Green party, the CDU is trailing the ecologists. In Rhineland-Palatinate, the center-left Social Democrats are ahead of the CDU, an indication that the popular state premier, Malu Dreyer, will lead another coalition government with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democratic Party. Polling stations will close at 6 p.m., local time, with results expected later Sunday or Monday.