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Predictions from Saturday’s poll indicate that the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) hold a small but narrow lead over Merkel’s party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Merkel has been a symbol of stability in Europe since she took over as Chancellor in 2005. But after almost 16 years as head of government, she will step down once it is clear who her successor will be.

The SPD and the CDU, Germany’s two largest political parties, shared power under Merkel’s fourth term as chancellor.

CDU leader Armin Laschet, the party’s candidate to be the next Chancellor and Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, held a final election rally with Merkel in Aachen on Saturday.

A boy presented Merkel, 67, an iced gingerbread heart with the words “Thank you CDU”, and another supporter gave her a cake decorated with an image of her diamond-shaped hand gesture .

Rival candidate Olaf Scholz, from the Social Democrats, is organizing his last rally in his constituency of Potsdam on Saturday. Scholz has been German Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Finance since 2018.

FDP leader Christian Lindner ends his election campaign with rallies in Cologne and Düsseldorf.

According to the latest polls, the Social Democrats vote 25.2% and could gain 4.7 percentage points from the 2017 national elections. This lead could mean a reversal of a 20-year downtrend for the social democrats. Over the past two decades, the party has lost around half of its voters.

Germany’s national elections too close to call, polls show, as top candidates hold latest rallies

The Christian Democrats are several percentage points behind the SPD at around 22.4%, according to polls. This could mean a loss of 10.5 percentage points from the 2017 national elections, and 19.1 percentage points from the 2013 elections.

The Greens are currently voting at 15.9%, in third place. However, the Green Party could record the strongest growth of any party in the next federal election, with a potential gain of 7.5 percentage points from the last national election in 2017. Greens leader Annalena Baerbock s’ is being imposed as a candidate for chancellor and potential kingmaker in the coalition talks set to follow Sunday’s vote.

According to poll forecasts, the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) gets a poll rate of 11.1% and is expected to make only marginal gains from the last national election.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won 10.6% of the polls, a drop of 2 percentage points from the 2017 national elections.

The AfD – which enjoyed marked success in the 2017 elections following the influx of refugees to Germany in 2015 – has struggled to maintain its momentum since then and has been severely criticized for its links to the extreme law.

The proximity of the race coupled with Germany’s complicated voting system means it could be some time before a winning coalition is formed and the ultimate winner is known.

Environmental and economic concerns have become key issues in the countryside, the former fueled by the deadly floods that devastated parts of Germany this summer.

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