German Chancellor Merkel looks to secure a fourth term as voting commences in Germany

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Germany will hold federal elections on Sunday to choose a chancellor for the next four years.

Angela Merkel, who has been the Chancellor of Germany since 2005, is likely to win a historic fourth term in office. The 63-year-old German leader and her Christian Democratic Union party have led in the Bundestag, or the Federal Parliament, for more than a decade.

Issues, including the economy and immigration have dominated the 2017 campaign and this will be the first national vote since Germany opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of migrants from Syria and Iraq in 2015.

Chancellor Merkel and her main challenger Martin Schulz have made their final appeals to voters ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Both have urged Germans not to back the right-wing populist AfD party.

The winner of the elections will have a daunting task of leading Germany as Britain departs from the European Union, tackling global threats of terrorism, climate change, and an aggressive North Korea. On the domestic front, concerns over immigration, education, and investment in digital technologies will be focused on by the elected Chancellor.

Merkel has pledged to reduce Germany’s already low unemployment, and is offering modest tax cuts. She has defended her 2015 “open door” policy that led to more than a million refugees entering the country, but has insisted the events of that year must not be repeated.

But the chancellor has largely stayed away from making big election promises and has been accused of “sleepwalking” through the campaign by the German media.

There are 61.5 million eligible voters in Germany and a total of 42 parties are taking part in the elections, as well as a number of independent candidates. These are the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), led by incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel; its right-wing Bavarian alliance partner, the Christian Social Union (CSU), with its top candidate Joachim Hermann; the CDU’s main rival, the centrist Social Democratic Party (SPD), with Martin Schulz as its chair; the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), co-chaired by Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel; the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) led by Christian Lindner, CNN reported.

The CDU and SPD — partners in a coalition government since the last election in 2013 — are likely to emerge as the two largest parties.

Once the final results have been announced on Monday, coalition talks will begin.

To form a government, the parties involved must have a combined total of at least 50% of the seats in parliament.Parliament will reconvene on October 24 with the new government in place.