Elections in Germany are underway to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is stepping down after 16 years in office.
Polls opened at 8 a.m. local time and early results are expected to start coming in after voting ends around 6 p.m.
Latest polling shows the Social Democratic Party, which swings center left, is narrowly ahead of Merkel’s party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union, and its partner, the Christian Social Union. The Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany party, are following behind, as is the Free Democratic Party, which is more libertarian.
Of the higher-polling parties, theleading contenders to succeed Merkel are the Social Democrats’ Olaf Scholz, the Christian Democrats’ Armin Laschet and Annalena Baerbock of the Greens.
Economic issues and concerns over how to handle climate change are some of the top concerns among voters in this election. It’s a tight race so far, which has some voters still torn over how to vote — even on election day.
“I’m very torn. I like Scholz because of his initiative on taxes for the international minimum tax level, but I’m not so sure how strong they’ll be on climate,” first-time-voter Vessela Hristova told NPR.
Scholz currently serves as the German finance minister and vice chancellor.
Even with the uncertainty surrounding this year’s election, some voters in Berlin — a more liberal leaning city compared to Merkel’s conservative leaning politics — say they will not miss Merkel in office.
“Maybe when we see what will be the result of this election, maybe we will miss her! I don’t know. She’s not my chancellor,” Katja Lucke told NPR.
Germans will gain a better sense for who is in the lead when polls close, but it will take longer to get more accurate results of the election. In the German election system, parties may have to form coalitions to determine a majority. And in this year’s election, it could result in three parties forming a coalition, a rarity in German politics.
Rob Scmitz contributed reporting from Berlin.