What is at stake in Germany's election?

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What will Germany look like after Angela Merkel's era and how will its role evolve in Europe and beyond?
Will the centre-left SPD manage to wrest power from the conservatives? Will the Greens or the liberals be part of the next government?

These are just some of the questions thrown up by Sunday's hotly contested election.

- Why is Merkel leaving? -

Merkel, 67, announced that her current and fourth term in office would be "the last" in October 2018, when her CDU had just suffered a regional electoral setback.

The decision marks the first time since 1949 that an incumbent chancellor has not stood for re-election.

Appointed chancellor for the first time on November 22, 2005, Merkel has been in office almost as long as Helmut Kohl, Germany's longest-serving leader who was in power for just over 16 years (5,869 days).

Under Merkel's leadership, Germany has been synonymous with stability in Europe. That could change after the election, with fragmented voting likely to result in a three-party coalition government.

- Could the conservatives lose power? -

The latest opinion polls have Merkel's CDU and the CSU, its Bavarian sister party, on around 22 percent -- which would be their worst election score in post-war Germany.

In the last election in 2017 under Merkel, the conservatives…
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