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The race to succeed Merkel is heating up: What you need to know

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With weeks until Germany’s vote, none of the hopeful candidates are proving as popular as the outgoing chancellor.

With just a month to go until Germans head to the ballot box to vote in federal elections, the race to succeed Angela Merkel and form the next government is headed for a photo finish.

Merkel’s decision to retire after 16 years at the summit of German politics has left her Christian Democrats struggling to coat-tail off her immense popularity and, under new leader Armin Laschet, they could be headed for their worst result in post-war history.

The main beneficiaries are their junior ruling partners, the centre-left Social Democrats (SDP).

Multiple polls have shown a remarkable turnaround for the SDP, who, after years spent wilting in the shadow of their larger governing partner, have found new life during the campaign under the leadership of finance minister Olaf Scholz.

A Forsa poll published on Tuesday saw the SDP nudge ahead of the Christian Democrats for the first time in 15 years, by a margin of 23 to 22, closing a gap of more than 10 points from just a month before.

Meanwhile, the Greens, who showed a burst of early momentum earlier this year, have slumped to third place at 18 percent.

“It is the first time ever in Germany that the outgoing chancellor is not running again,” said Arndt Leininger, a political scientist at Chemnitz University of Technology.

“We haven’t seen a race that seems that open since 2005, when Merkel’s CDU narrowly beat Schroeder’s SDP.”

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