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Merkel predicts tight race in German regional vote

Bernd Althusmann, top candidate of the Lower Saxony Christian Democrats, left, and German chancellor Angela Merkel attend an election campaign event in Stade, Germany, prior to the Lower Saxony state elections on Oct. 15, 2017. (Carmen Jaspersen/dpa via AP)

Bernd Althusmann, top candidate of the Lower Saxony Christian Democrats, left, and German chancellor Angela Merkel attend an election campaign event in Stade, Germany, prior to the Lower Saxony state elections on Oct. 15, 2017. (Carmen Jaspersen/dpa via AP)

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she expects a tight race in Sunday's regional election in the northern state of Lower Saxony.

The state's centre -left coalition called the early election after it lost its parliamentary majority when a Green lawmaker defected to Merkel's conservatives in July.

Merkel told a party rally in the town of Stade on Friday not to read too much into recent polls that had the Social Democrats pulling slightly ahead of her party in Lower Saxony.

The regional vote has held up coalition talks between Merkel's Union bloc and two smaller parties on forming a new national government. The talks are expected to begin Wednesday.

The campaign in Lower Saxony has been influenced by the woes of the state's biggest employer, automaker Volkswagen, following the company's diesel scandal.

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