Germany election: Juncker reflects on Merkel’s time in office
According to the latest polls, the German election race is very close between CDU leader Armin Laschet and SPD leader Olaf Scholz. Not far behind them, the Greens leader Annalena Baerbock will most likely be part of any post-election coalition parties will agree to in the months to come. Leading parties will sound each other out before embarking on more formal coalition negotiations that could take months, leaving Mrs Merkel, 67, in charge in a caretaker role.
Campaigning in his home constituency of Aachen alongside Merkel, Laschet said on Saturday that a leftist alliance led by the SPD with the Greens and the hard-left Linke party would destabilise Europe.
Mr Laschet, 60, said: "They want to pull us out of NATO, they don't want this alliance, they want another republic.
"I don't want the Linke to be in the next government."
Olaf Scholz, the finance minister in Mrs Merkel's right-left coalition who won all three televised debates between the leading candidates.
Mr Scholz, 63, has not ruled out a leftist alliance with The Left but said NATO membership was a red line for the SPD.
The splintered political landscape means a three-way coalition is likely. Final opinion polls gave the Social Democrats a narrow lead, but the conservatives have reduced the gap in recent days and many voters were still undecided.
Follow below for live updates
Germany election live: Olaf Scholz sounds confident of his performance
Germany election: Angela Merkel will retire from domestic politics after 16 years as Chancellor
SPD leader hopeful he will win election
Speaking to reporters after casting his vote, Olaf Scholz said: "It's a very nice day today, the weather's already a very good sign.
"And now I hope that as many citizens as possible will go to the polls, cast their votes, and make possible what's become apparent, namely that there will be a very strong result for the Social Democrats and that citizens will give me the mandate to become the next chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany."
The SPD leader later tweeted: "Today is election day! Being able to choose is a great asset.
"Everyone who has not yet done so by postal vote or other means: Go vote and decide for a good future - for affordable housing, stable pensions and a climate-neutral economy. Let's do it."
'Every vote counts' Merkel ally, Soder, casts his vote
CSU leader Markus Soder cast his vote in the federal election, urging Germans to do the same.
The Bavaria state prime minister and Angela Merkel's ally, tweeted a photo of himself casting his vote.
He wrote: "Today is the day of the decision: vote and make use of your most important democratic right!
"It will be a blink of an eye final, every vote counts."
Heute ist der Tag der Entscheidung: Gehen Sie w\u00e4hlen und machen Sie Gebrauch von Ihrem wichtigsten demokratischen Recht! Es wird ein Wimpernschlagfinale, es kommt auf jede Stimme an. pic.twitter.com/uYYtPYCzjs\u2014 Markus S\u00f6der (@Markus_Soeder) September 26, 2021
Greens leader urges voters to choose 'climate government'
Greens leader Annalena Baerbock urged voters to cast their ballots in her favour for a "climate government".
She tweeted: "Living in a democracy means having a choice. This is a great good - let's use it.
"It's about the future of all of us.
"If you want a climate government, you should choose green today."
In einer Demokratie zu leben, bedeutet, eine Wahl zu haben. Das ist ein hohes Gut - nutzen wir es. Es geht um unser aller Zukunft. Wer eine Klimaregierung will, sollte heute Gr\u00fcn w\u00e4hlen. #btw21\u2014 Annalena Baerbock (@ABaerbock) September 26, 2021
Olaf Scholz casts his vote
The SPD leader and current frontrunner of the election cast his ballot with his wife his wife Britta Ernst.
Mr Scholz voted in his constituency, Potsdam.
The latest poll had the Chancellor hopeful at 26 percent.
Olaf Scholz casts his vote
Newly elected MPs to meet in Parliament in a month
The new Bundestag is expected to meet for the first time on October 26.
October 26 is the last possible day for the first session of the newly elected parliament.
The newly elected Bundestag must meet for the first time no later than 30 days after the election.
New MPs will choose their faction leaders as their first task.
The FDP wants to kick off this Monday, the other parliamentary groups will follow on Tuesday.
Germans also vote in two state elections today
A new state parliament is also being elected in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the state of Berlin today.
The SPD is expected to win both races.
Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is likely to achieve a brilliant election victory.
In all surveys her SPD was most recently around 40 percent.
In Berlin, top SPD candidate Franziska Giffey has moved up from fourth to first place in recent surveys.
'Vote today!' Federal President pleads with Germans to cast their ballot
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called on all citizens to cast their votes in the federal election.
In a guest post for Bild, the head of state wrote: "Let's vote together - for a strong democracy and a good future.
"Every vote counts - your vote counts.
"So I ask you: vote today!"
He continued: "Those who take part are heard.
"Those who do not vote let others decide for themselves."