German national election too close to call, polls suggest, as key candidates hold final rallies

Poll predictions on Saturday point to the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) holding a small but narrowing lead over Merkel’s party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).FDP leader Christian Lindner was to end his election campaign with rallies in Cologne and Düsseldorf.According to the latest polls, the Social Democrats are polling at 25.2% and could gain 4.7 percentage points compared to the 2017 national elections. This lead could mean a reversal of a 20-year-long downward trend for the Social Democrats. Over the past two decades, the party has lost around half of its voters.The Christian Democrats are trailing several percentage points behind the SPD at around 22.4%, polls indicate. This could mean a loss of 10.5 percentage points compared to the 2017 national elections, and of 19.1 percentage points compared to the 2013 elections.The Greens are currently polling at 15.9%, in third place. However, the ecological party could record the strongest growth of all parties in the next federal election, with a potential gain of 7.5 percentage points compared to the last national elections in 2017. The Greens’ leader, Annalena Baerbock, has emerged as a contender for chancellor and potential kingmaker in the coalition negotiations expected to follow Sunday’s vote.Germany’s business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) is polling at 11.1% and is slated to make only marginal gains compared to the last national elections, according to poll predictions.The far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) is polling at 10.6% — a decrease of 2 percentage points compared to the 2017 national elections. The AfD — which saw a marked success in the 2017 elections following the influx of refugees into Germany in 2015 — has struggled to keep its momentum going since and has faced harsh criticism over ties to the extreme far-right.