Polls currently show that Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party – with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) – will be the largest party after the Bundestag election on 24 September, but they will fall short of a majority.
This is common in Germany, and so the resulting parliament is in part determined by how the smaller parties perform, and which coalition possibilities will be born.
German election poll tracker
How does the German voting system work?
Each person casts two votes in the Bundestag election, to allocate a total of 598 seats. Half of these are to elect a local MP by constituency, in a first-past-the-post fashion.
The remaining 299 votes are elected via party lists, allocated near-proportionately to the party vote share in each of Germany’s 16 federal states.
To be included in this seat allocation process, a party must achieve five per cent of the national vote.
2013 German Federal Election Results Map
This second round of seat allocation also means that the total number of MPs can be higher, with politicians elected in “overhang seats” in order to balance the state- and constituency-level votes. The most recent parliament had 32 overhang seats, taking the total up to 631 MPs.
This allows voters to represent their interests locally through their chosen representative, as well as nationally in the party they feel will be strongest in the Bundestag.
In the end, the seat share for each party ends up very similar to their vote share – unlike the system used in the UK’s parliamentary elections.
Graphic: The German electoral system
So who will win the German election and when will we know the results?
Merkel’s CDU is looking most likely to win the most seats in the Bundestag – for the fourth election in a row.
The SPD, led by former President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, is in second place in the polls – securing around a quarter of the vote.
The AfD – the far-right Alternative for Germany party – had enjoyed a slight rise in the polls in 2016 but have since collapsed into in-fighting and unpopularity.
German election projected seat share
In reality, the CDU will have to seek a coalition agreement with the SPD or one of the other minor parties to form a government.
We should know who has won the election by 6pm BST this Sunday, when voting ends…