Sun 26 September 2021:
Warm temperatures and clear blue skies greeted voters across Germany as tens of millions of voters headed to polling stations to vote in a nationwide election to elect a new parliament and the successor to Angela Merkel as chancellor.
Armin Laschet of the Christian Democrats and Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats are the frontrunners in the polls, with Annalena Baerbock of the Greens coming in third.
Angela Merkel will not run in the election for the first time since the county reunified in 1990. The lady who became the defining European leader of her era will step down after 16 years in the chancellery once a new government is established.
Days before the polls, nearly 35% of voters were still undecided about who they would vote for or if they would vote at all, making predictions difficult ahead of the historic vote.
Merkel is still the country’s most popular politician but she is not running for another term and will step down after the formation of a new government.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged citizens to vote and make their voices heard.
“Our country faces a political transition,” he wrote in an article penned for tabloid Bild am Sonntag. “Let’s vote together – for a strong democracy and a good future.”
Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. (0600GMT) at nearly 85,000 locations across the country and will close at 6 p.m. (1600GMT).
Germany’s Federal Election Commissioner asked people to observe anti-coronavirus measures at polling places — wearing a mask in the building, complying with hygiene and social distancing measures.
Many Germans have already cast ballots by mail, largely due to coronavirus concerns, and authorities expect more than 40% of votes to be mail-in ballots in this election.
Nearly 60.4 million people are eligible to vote in the election, including 2.9 million first-time voters, according to authorities.
The first exit polls will be published shortly after polling stations close and preliminary results are also expected later on Sunday.
The latest survey on Friday by the Allensbach Institute suggests a head-to-head race between conservative leader Laschet and social democrat candidate Scholz.
The institute predicted that Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) would win 26% of the vote. Laschet’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance was expected to get 25%. Baerbock’s environmentalist Greens was polled at 16%.
The same survey showed support for liberal Free Democrats (FDP) at 10.5%, with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) just behind at 10%, followed by the anti-capitalist Left Party at 5%.
Surveys have indicated that none of the parties will get enough votes to govern alone, and the winning party’s chancellor candidate will likely face tough negotiations to form a coalition government.
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