Merkel expecting fourth term in office as voting begins in Germany

The public has been urged to get out and vote amid fears over the rise of the far-right

Merkel expecting fourth term in office as voting begins in Germany

A vote is cast in Germany's general election at a polling station in Berlin, 24-09-2017. Image: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Germans are going to the polls today in a national election which could deliver Angela Merkel a fourth term as Chancellor.

The 63-year-old German leader and her CDU party have led in the Bundestag for more than a decade.

Issues including the economy and immigration have dominated the campaign and this will be the first national vote since Germany opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of migrants in 2015.

Even if Mrs Merkel remains as Chancellor, Germany could see the far-right AfD party become the country's main opposition.

Grand Coalition

Sixty million people are eligible to vote in what is a notoriously complex system for electing members of the Bundestag, combining direct and proportional representation.

The CDU and its closest rival - Martin Schulz' SPD - led a so-called "grand coalition" during the last term.

This time around, another coalition looks certain but its make-up remains uncertain following a six-week campaign.

Voter apathy

Both Mrs Merkel and Mr Schulz have used these last few days to implore their supporters to go to the polls.

They fear voter apathy, in a campaign regularly described as "boring," could give an advantage to some of the smaller parties – including the right-wing nationalist AfD who have been pushing to get seats in the national parliament for the first time.

The AfD has gained popularity by focusing on migration and security.

However some of its members have called for history books on the Nazi era to be rewritten and the party has become embroiled in a number of rows over Holocaust denial – a crime in Germany.

Earlier this month one of the party’s leaders said Germany should be proud of its soldiers achievements during the Second World War.

Voting stations opened in Germany at 8am local time (7am in Ireland) and close at 6pm (5pm in Ireland).