Germany's anti-migrant populists are eyeing major gains at Sunday's state polls, at the expense of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, which faces a backlash over her decision to open the borders to refugees a year ago.

The xenophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD), which was running for the first time for seats in the regional parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, is projected to possibly unseat Merkel's Christian Democratic Union from second place.

Although the former Communist state is Germany's poorest and least populous, it carries some symbolic meaning as it is home to Merkel's constituency Stralsund.

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