Exit polls released after polls closed in the German Federal election revealed a neck-and-neck race between the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) with their Bavarian allies and the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD).
The exit polls, published by Infratest dimap, put the SPD and the CDU along with their Christian Social Union (CSU) allies at 25 per cent each, making it unclear which party will be able to form the next coalition government until the actual results of the vote are announced.
In third place are the Green Party with 15 per cent, followed by the market liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), with 11 per cent each.
The close polling numbers between the SPD and the CDU/CSU come after the latter was able to make up ground from prior polls that gave the SPD a comfortable lead and fueled speculation that the SPD could form a left-wing government with the Greens and the far-left Marxist Left Party.
There were concerns that the Left Party would not meet the 5 per cent threshold to win seats in the German parliament at all, but the exit poll puts the party exactly at 5 per cent.
Another exit poll, released by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, yielded similar results, but puts the SPD at 26 per cent and the CDU/CSU at 24 per cent — indicating that until the final results are released the election could be too close to call.
The results for the CDU, the party of outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are likely the worst the party has seen since its creation in 1949.
The close polls leave several possible scenarios for future coalition governments and negotiations for a new government are expected to take months.
Chancellor Merkel is expected to remain on as leader of Germany until a coalition agreement is reached.