Citizens in Germany’s most populous state went to the polls today, with surveys showing good chances of victory for the Social Democrat-Green regional government that Chancellor Angela Merkel has labelled irresponsibly spendthrift.
About 13.2 million people are eligible to vote for the state legislature in North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany, which includes Cologne, Dusseldorf and the industrial Ruhr region.
Today's election is the third state-level vote this year.
It comes a week after a regional coalition of Ms Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and the neoliberal Free Democrats — the parties that make up the national government — lost power in Schleswig-Holstein.
It also follows setbacks for Ms Merkel’s austerity-led response to the eurozone debt crisis in French and Greek elections last weekend.
Polls suggest that the regional government of Social Democrats and Greens led by popular governor Hannelore Kraft (above) has a good chance of emerging strengthened with a majority in the state legislature.