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Reported ballot irregularities may cost far-right AfD a place in German parliament

BERLIN (Reuters) - Ballot irregularities reported by a whistleblower could dash the chances of the far-right, anti-immigrant AfD party to enter Germany's parliament after the Sept. 24 election.

The Alternative for Germany has 7-9 percent support in pre-election polls, down from double digits in late 2016 on the heels of a migrant influx into Germany, but enough to pass the 5 percent threshold for seats in the Bundestag (lower house).

But the AfD's standing could be in jeopardy if the election commission in North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous state, decides that irregularities cited by anonymous whistleblower are serious enough.

A spokesman for the state's election director said the commission would meet on Friday to review all party candidate slates, as well as the alleged AfD irregularities.

"We are assessing if the AfD ballot list is legally valid,” the spokesman said. "If not, it could be barred."

The AfD enjoys significant support in NRW and the state could be pivotal to the party's prospects of securing enough votes to win seats in the Bundestag, analysts say. The AfD entered NRW's own assembly in May with 7.4 percent of the vote.

The Rheinische Post newspaper, quoting from a four-page letter by the whistleblower, said three people who voted for the AfD's candidate list in the district of Recklinghausen were not full party members at the time, as required, and therefore were not eligible to vote.

The newspaper said the issue was serious given that the AfD's top candidate in NRW won his spot by only one vote. It noted the deadline had passed for submitting lists of candidates and revisions or corrections were no longer possible.

The letter cited what it called "clear evidence" that the election of the AfD candidates had been influenced by the procedural violations and demanded a "comprehensive review."

The AfD could appeal any decision by the commission, which includes members of the state parliament and other citizens, to exclude the party from the ballot.

AfD representatives in North Rhine-Westphalia were not immediately available for comment.

State officials in the neighboring state of Lower Saxony also received challenges about AfD party lists and will decide how to proceed on Friday as well, a spokeswoman there said.

(Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann; writing by Andrea Shalal; editing by Mark Heinrich)