Chancellor Angela Merkel attends an event. File photo
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives are bracing for a rout in two key regional polls Sunday, as German voters go to the polls in regional elections in two western states that pose an early test of the conservative Christian Democrats' prospects of retaining power in a federal vote later this year.
Voters expected to punish country’s largest party for a face-mask corruption scandal and a series of pandemic setbacks.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, in power since 2005, is not seeking re-election in September and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is already missing the 'Merkel bonus' she has brought them with four consecutive national election victories.
The votes for new regional parliaments in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg are seen as a bellwether of the nation's mood ahead of September 26 general elections -- which will be the first in over 15 years not to feature Merkel.
Some German commentators have called the mask scandal the conservatives' "biggest crisis" since a slush-fund controversy in the 1990s ensnared former chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Armin Laschet, chairman of the German Christian Democratic Union, CDU, attends a press conference in Berlin. File/AP
New CDU chief Armin Laschet has rubbished the comparison as "absurd" but he too has sharply criticised the MPs caught up in the row, joining a chorus of condemnation from across the political spectrum.
To stop the bleed ahead of Sunday's votes, the CDU/CSU gave all of its lawmakers until Friday evening to declare any financial benefits gained from the pandemic.
CSU lawmakers Georg Nusslein and CDU lawmaker Nikolas Loebel resigned last week on allegations they pocketed hundreds of thousands of euros for acting as middlemen in the contracts.
CDU lawmaker Mark Hauptmann then stepped down after media reports accused him of lobbying for foreign governments including Azerbaijan, and promoting over-priced masks. He denies receiving any payments.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, seen as the nation's moral arbiter, said politicians cashing in on a crisis was "poison for democracy".
At a campaign stop outside a picturesque market town in Saxony, Armin Laschet was faced with a very delicate political dilemma for a German politician: what to put on his bratwurst. With cameras clicking, the faltering favourite to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor
Germans headed to the polls in two key regional elections on Sunday, with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives bracing for a drubbing on anger over a corruption scandal and a series of pandemic setbacks. The votes for new regional parliaments
Saxony-Anhalt is one of Germany's smallest states with a population of just 2.2 million, but with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union running neck-and-neck with the far-right AfD there, the stakes could not be higher for the regional vote.
The Ministry stressed in a statement on Wednesday that its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.
This restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the DGCA. However, flights under the Air Bubble agreement will not be affected, the DGCA said.
Wide range of lively entertainment shows being held every weekend until February 26 across Al Qasba, Al Majaz Waterfront, Al Montazah Parks and Khorfakkan Beach.