Voters across Germany started to cast ballots at 8:00 a.m. local time (0600GMT) Sunday in the general election in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is widely considered to be re-elected.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a campaign rally of the Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) in Berlin, capital of Germany, Sept. 26, 2009. German will vote for general elections on Sunday. [Luo Huanhuan/Xinhua]
Around 80,000 polling stations across the country opened to over 62 million voters Sunday morning, and the balloting will end at 18:00 p.m. local time (1600GMT) later in the day.
German TV channels are expected to release the exit poll results immediately after the voting ends.
Merkel, who heads the conservative bloc of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), is scheduled to cast her ballots at around 13:00 p.m. local time (1100GMT) in downtown Berlin while her top rival Vice Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier from the Social Democrats (SPD) has planned his balloting in Berlin at 10 a.m. local time (0800 GMT).
As many as 27 parties in Germany have registered to compete in Sunday's election, among which Merkel's (CDU/CSU), the SPD, the FDP, the Greens and the Left Party are the dominant ones.
The latest poll survey released on Wednesday showed support for Merkel's conservative bloc stood at 35 percent, followed by the SPD with 26 percent, the FDP with 13 percent, the Greens with 11 percent and the Left party with 10 percent.
However, local media reported that around one-third of the voters had not made up their minds.
A boy rides a bicycle beside a poster of Frank-Walter Steinmeier, leader of Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Berlin, capital of Germany, Sept. 26, 2009. German will vote for general elections on Sunday. [Wu Wei/Xinhua]
According to German election rules, a voter needs to cast two ballots, one for a direct local candidate and the other for a preferred party.
During the 2005 general election, some 77.7 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, but this time local media have forecasted a lower turnout.
In a letter published in the mass circulation newspaper Bild on the election day, German President Horst Koehler has appealed to the electorate to actively participate in voting.
"Non-voters are not represented in parliament," Koehler said in the letter.
"If you don't vote, there is nobody in parliament to put forward your concerns," he added.
The weather was fine in most parts of Germany on Sunday, and the voters could enjoy comfortable sunshine on their way to the polling stations.
In the meantime, German authorities have tightened security across the country after three Al-Qaeda videos were released on the Internet one after another in one week ahead of the election. The videos called on Muslims in Germany to take part in jihad, or holy war.
(Xinhua News Agency September 27, 2009)