>> It's a regional election, but it could have dramatic national consequences for Germany. Polls opened on Sunday in the western state of Hesse for what's become a closely scrutinized vote. For Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition government, the stakes are high. Her CDU party is expected to suffer humiliating losses.
That will pile on the pressure ahead of a party conference in December, where Merkel may face a leadership challenge. Then there's her grand coalition partners, the social democrats. Heavy losses for them in Hesse could blow up the grand coalition in Berlin. And that could trigger early generation elections which Reuters Doug Bogdine says neither party would be like to survive.
>> Merkel's Grand Coalition in Berlin with the social democrats is in a rut. It's a loveless marriage. It's riven by infighting. It's very hard to see how they can recover without personnel changes at the top. Equally, if they pull the plug, and go to general election, both parties face heavy losses and the likelihood that they will be sent packing to the opposition benches.
>> Then, there's the smaller parties getting ready to mop up those votes. The far right, ASP, could make a strong showing and enter the state legislature for the first time. Then as the greens vying for second place in Hesse as the self-styled party of reason. Polls show that it will be very difficult to form a coalition in future without the involvement of the greens.