The much hyped election in Germany for 2021 has kicked off at local time at 8 am (Bangladesh time 12 pm).
According to the Federal Statistical Office around 60.4 million Germans are eligible to cast a ballot in this election, with the number of enfranchised women (31.2 million) higher than men (29.2 million), reports DW.
Some 650,000 volunteers will be posted at 88,000 polling stations across the country to hand out ballots and help with the counting once polls close at 6 p.m.
Exit polls are published right after polling places close at 6 p.m.This is followed by projections, once the first votes have actually been counted. They are updated as counting continues into the early hours of the following morning, when a provisional result is published. The official results won't be published, however, until several weeks later.
With this election, the 16 years era of Chancellor Angela Merkel comes to an end.
Merkel has been in power since 2005 but plans to step down after the election, making the vote an era-changing event to set the future course of Europe's largest economy, reports Reuters.
A fractured electorate means that after the election, leading parties will sound each other out before embarking on more formal coalition negotiations that could take months, leaving Merkel, 67, in charge in a caretaker role.
Campaigning in his home constituency of Aachen alongside Merkel, conservative candidate Armin Laschet said on Saturday that a leftist alliance led by the SPD with the Greens and the hard-left Linke party would destabilise Europe.
"They want to pull us out of NATO, they don't want this alliance, they want another republic," said Laschet, who is 60. "I don't want the Linke to be in the next government."
Running against Laschet is Olaf Scholz of the SPD, the finance minister in Merkel's right-left coalition who won all three televised debates between the leading candidates.
Scholz, 63, has not ruled out a leftist alliance with The Left but said NATO membership was a red line for the SPD.
After a domestic-focused election campaign, Berlin's allies in Europe and beyond may have to wait for months before they can see whether the new German government is ready to engage on foreign issues to the extent they would like.
Who is up for election?
No one will directly elect the chancellor on Sunday. Instead, members of the parliament, the Bundestag, are running to win a seat for the next four-year term.
It is these representatives who will later elect a chancellor to head a new government.
The German election system is a style of proportional representation. This means that each voter has two votes.
The first vote directly decides a candidate in each of the 299 electoral districts in a first-past-the-post system. This ensures that every district and every region has a representative in parliament. Candidates must be German citizens over the age of 18. Individuals without party affiliation can also run. To do so, they must have 200 signatories from their respective constituency supporting their candidacy.
The second vote is used to elect a party, and determines the makeup of the Bundestag.
How many parties are there?
In total, there are 47 parties taking part in the election this year. To win representation in parliament as a group, a party needs to pass the 5% threshold or have three directly elected candidates.
The CDU/CSU, the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), the pro-free market Free Democrats (FDP), the environmentalist Green Party, the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the socialist Left Party have been represented in parliament over the last four years. All are expected to maintain their presence in the body, in some form or another.