Voting in polling stations across Germany takes place between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. local time, but many have cast their votes already via postal ballots. Exit polls giving an indication of the election result will be released shortly after the polls close.
Recent German elections have failed to throw up any real surprises and Merkel’s re-election was usually assured. Since announcing she would step down, however, the election race has been wide open with voters forced to look elsewhere for new leadership.
In the meantime, Merkel’s ruling conservative alliance of the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union has failed to break away from the pack and recent opinion polls have seen the party trailing in second place behind the SPD.
Still, the vote is too close to call with polls in the last week putting the SPD with 25% of the vote and the CDU-CSU with around 22%, while the Green Party is seen with around 16%.
Further behind lies the pro-business, liberal Free Democratic Party with 11%, with the right-wing Alternative for Germany seen with the same vote share. The far-left Die Linke party is seen with 6% of the vote.