German state vote offers last test before national election

BERLIN (AP) — A state vote on Sunday is German politicians’ last major test at the ballot box before a September election that will determine who succeeds Chancellor Angela Merkel. After a bumpy start to the year, the longtime leader’s bloc is hoping for a good showing in an eastern region where a far-right party is a strong challenger. The vote for a new legislature in Saxony-Anhalt, a state of 2.2 million people that is one of Germany’s less prosperous, puts a sharp focus on one challenge Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union faces: reining in the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, in the east. Its bigger challenge ahead of the Sept. 26 national election is on its other flank: keeping at bay the environmentalist Greens, who are strongest in western Germany and in big cities.