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>> It's described as the state that represents Germany's pulse, a key indicator of which way the country is voting. North Rhine-Westphalia with 18 million residents makes up about 20% of the national population. It's the most populist of Germany's 16 states and the biggest contributor of GDP. So, as some 13 million people go to the polls here on Sunday, the rest of the country sits up and pays attention.
Being part of the ruling coalition here means having influence in federal legislation. The ruling coalition has 6 representatives at the 69 seat Bundesrat, upper-house of parliament. That house can propose new federal law and block those passed by the nationally elected lower-house of Parliament, the Bundestag. North Rhine-Westphalia, has been governed by a center left coalition of the Social Democrats and the Greens since 2010.
But, Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats are campaigning hard here to win a place in this ever important area. Voters say they're looking for change.>> As usual, a good democracy and finally a change, so that we can forget the 50 years of the SPD being in the lead.>>
> Matters were made complex at the end of last year when the local authority failed to take action against a Tunisian asylum seeker, who later carried out the attack on a Christmas market in Berlin.
>> I hope for more activity in politics, and I think there will be a change.>>
State officials had categorized the suspect as a person likely to threaten public safety, but he was never arrested or deported. There are now concerns that the right wing alternative for Germany party could enter state Parliament for the first time. 1,300 candidates are vying for votes in what is the last state ballot before the federal general election on September 24th.
And all indications show the social Democrats and Merkel's CDU are running a close race.