The polling stations opened this Sunday morning in Germany for legislative suspense where social democrats and conservatives are fighting over the succession of Angela Merkel who will leave the chancellery after sixteen years in power.
Some 60.4 million voters have until 6 p.m. to elect their deputies and around 40% said they were still undecided a few days before this crucial vote for Europe's largest economy.
The Social Democrats under current Finance Minister Olaf Scholz are slightly ahead, with 25%, the conservatives of Armin Laschet, credited with 22 to 23%, a historically low score, according to final polls.
The gap is however too small between the center-left and the center-right of the chancellor to dare a prognosis.
The publication of the first estimates at the exit of the polls at 6 p.m. should not necessarily make it possible to see more clearly: many voters, including Angela Merkel, have indeed chosen the postal vote, not taken into account in this first photograph of the ballot.
The name of the future chancellor and the composition of his probable majority thus risk not being known as of Sunday evening.
No obvious coalition tonight
Long negotiations will be necessary whatever happens in the coming months to form the future team in power, at the risk of leading to European paralysis until the first quarter of 2022. Angela Merkel, who is preparing to retire from life policy, may have to stay in the driver's seat by the end of the year to deal with day-to-day business. After keeping away from the electoral contests, the Chancellor, who will equal with 16 years in the chancellery her mentor Helmut Kohl, has spared no efforts in the home stretch.
Will the engagement of a Chancellor whose popularity remains at the zenith be enough to prevent the victory of the SPD?
Nothing is less sure.
Long stuck in third place in the polls, the SPD made an improbable comeback from mid-August.
The errors of his opponents, combined with the near flawlessness of his leader, of centrist tendency, made it possible to contradict the forecasts which promised to one of the oldest parties in Europe a slow death.
Former mayor of Hamburg, his candidate, although devoid of charisma, led a campaign without a hitch, not hesitating to pose, even in gestures, as a true heir to Angela Merkel.
CDU-CSU risks disaster
Long at the head of voting intentions, the Christian Democrats risk falling for the first time since 1949 under the symbolic threshold of 30%. In addition to the erosion of power, the conservative union suffered from the bad campaign of its clumsy and unpopular leader. The Greens should be content with third place, with around 17%. This score would be historic for Grünen who have so far exceeded the 10% mark only in 2009. But it would leave them with a bitter taste because they were still at the top of the polls in April, in a Germany worried about climate change .
The liberals of the FDP are already appearing as a potential “kingmaker”.
The radical left Die Linke seems to be ready to participate but will first have to give up its criticism of NATO.
The far-right AfD, which entered the Bundestag for the first time four years ago, should confirm its parliamentary anchoring with around 10% but remains excluded from any possible coalition.
Angela Merkel calls in her last meeting to vote Armin Laschet for "the future" of the country
The neo-Nazi “Hang the Greens!