Germans prepare to vote in elections

Germans are voting this weekend in their national elections.
Germans head to the polls Sunday to elect members who will form the country’s 17th Bundestag — the federal parliament.

Two candidates — incumbent chancellor, Angela Merkel and her vice-chancellor and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier — are vying to head up what has historically been a coalition government. Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, is looking to secure her second term as German chancellor. Steinmeier is a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Together the CDU and the SPD currently occupy over 60 percent of the seats in the German parliament. Polls conducted earlier in the campaign put the CDU and its coalition partners the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) ahead of the rival coalition — the SPD and the Greens. One issue has dominated the election campaign: The economy. The financial crisis has hit Germans hard with the country’s GDP declining six percent in 2009. Dealing with fallout from the economic crisis will be the priority for the next government with many predicting a jobs crisis. Some commentators are forecasting the jobless figure to rise by roughly one million, peaking in early 2011. Other issues high on the election agenda have been national security and German troops’ involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

Smaller debates have been taking place about the minimum wage and nuclear power. Polls on the eve of the election suggest that Merkel will be returned to the chancellors’ office, but with Germany’s proportional representation (PR) electoral system it is impossible to predict the exact shape of the next government.