An exit poll indicates that Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have emerged are leading the German election by a wide margin, though it is unclear whether her coalition partners will stay in Parliament.
The ARD television exit poll suggests:
- CDU - 42%
- Social Democrats - 26%
- Left Party - 8.5%
- Greens - 8%
- Free Democrats - 4.7%
German broadcaster ARD's exit poll suggests Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats lead the country's election by a wide margin.
German candidate Angela Merkel has cast her ballot in an election that is widely expected to hand her a third term in office.
German voters, some dressed in traditional costumes, have been casting their ballots in a election that is widely expected to return the incumbent Angela Merkel to power.
There are some 62 million eligible voters in the country and approval ratings for Merkel have soared over 60 percent in recent years.
The first exit polls are expected around 6pm local time (5PM UK time).
In the first German election since Europe's debt crisis erupted four years ago, voters are likely to give Angela Merkel a third term on Sunday, but may force her into a coalition with her leftist rivals and catapult a new anti-euro party into parliament.
The vote is being closely watched by Berlin's European partners, with some hoping Chancellor Merkel will soften her approach towards struggling euro states like Greece if she is pushed into a 'grand coalition' with the Social Democrats (SPD).
Voting is due to begin at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) and the first exit polls will be published at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT). Some 62 million Germans are eligible to vote.
The Greens (Die Gruene) have been consistently ranked third in opinion polls in recent months ahead of the German general election.
Led by Juergen Trittin, a former environment minister, and Katrin Goering-Eckardt, the surprise winner of the party's primaries, the party is eyeing a red-green coalition with the Socialists.
Here are some important facts about the candidate:
Juergen Trittin - Co-leader of the Green's parliamentary group alongside Katrin Goering-Eckardt.
- 1980: Joined the Greens
- 1998-2005: Environment minister
Peer Steinbruck, the main challenger to Angela Merkel's position in Germany's federal elections is the leader of the centre-left Socialist Democratic Party (SPD).
The SPD candidate says it is time for Germany to show solidarity and help its EU partners, adding that Ms Merkel "lacked passion" for Europe.
Here are some facts about the candidate:
- 1947: Born in Hamburg
- 1974: Graduates with economics degree from University of Kiel
- 1980s: Chief of staff for the North Rhein-Westphalia
- 1998: Economic minister for the North Rhein-Westphalia
- 2002 - 2005: Minister president or Governor of North Rhein-Westphalia
- 2005 - 2009: Served as Germany's finance minister under coalition with Angela Merkel's party
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat party may face a new coalition as recent polls show that their Bavarian sister party is only just above the 5% threshold for staying in parliament.
Should the Free Democrats (FDP) fail to be re-elected, Ms Merkel may be forced into a "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats (SPD), like her first government of 2005-2009.
Such uncertainty would affect weaker economies on the euro zone's "periphery", pushing up yields on the likes of Spanish and Italian debt relative to Germany's, the euro zone benchmark.
Some of the main contenders in Germany's upcoming parliamentary elections held their final campaign rallies across the country on Friday.
Germans head to the polls on Sunday to elect members of the Bundestag, the lower house in the German political system, and the one which determines the government and the chancellor.
Opinion polls indicate that Angela Merkel will continue as chancellor after the election but possibly with a new coalition partner.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is almost certain to be re-elected for an unprecedented third term as the federal elections are due to take place on Sunday.
Europe's most powerful woman is considered to be as popular as ever, but her centre-right majority is under threat from an anti-euro party and the Socialist Democratic Party of Germany.