People are seen at a polling station in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 24, 2017. More than 61 million German voters were called to cast ballots on Sunday to pick their Bundestag, or federal parliament, on which a new government will be formed. (Xinhua/Stefan Zeitz)
More than 61 million German voters were called to cast ballots on Sunday to pick their Bundestag, or federal parliament, on which a new government will be formed.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU conservative alliance is expected to win most votes, which is set to hand Merkel a fourth term as chancellor.
It is also expected to see the far-right anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) enter the parliament for the first time since World War II.
About 73,500 polling stations across the country opened at 8:00 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) and will be closed at 6:00 p.m. (1600 GMT).
Polling institutions will interview voters anonymously at the exit of selected polling stations, and will publish the initial results exactly after the election ends.
German election rule sets a five-percent-vote hurdle for parties to be elected in the Bundestag. According to pre-election opinion polls, six parties -- counting Merkel's CDU and its Bavarian CSU sister party as one -- are expected to win seats in the new parliament.
The other four parties are center-left Social Democrats (SPD), business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), far-left party Die Linke, and Green party (Gruene).
In a chilly morning with drizzle, Xinhua found that after the voting started, only a few voters came to a polling station at Wedding Borough, one of the poorest and most ethnically diverse localities in Berlin.
Merkel will cast her ballot Sunday afternoon at a polling station near Humboldt University Berlin.
Across Germany's 16 regional states, more than 600,000 volunteers signed up to help count votes. Campaign posters are not allowed by polling stations and no campaigning is allowed nearby. Selfie-taking or any other photography while voting is also strictly prohibited.