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Associated Press

The Latest: Laschet: Every vote counts in Germany's election

German election candidate Armin Laschet says the election result “will come down to every vote.”

The Latest on Germany's election:

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BERLIN - Armin Laschet, the candidate of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right bloc to become Germany's new leader, says the election result “will come down to every vote.”

Recent polls point to a very close race between Laschet's center-right Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats, with the Greens trailing in third.

Laschet said as he voted Sunday in Aachen, on Germany's western border, that the election “will decide on Germany's direction in the coming years, and so it will come down to every vote.”

His Social Democrat rival, Olaf Scholz, said after he voted in Potsdam, just outside Berlin, that he hopes voters “will make possible a very strong result for the Social Democrats, and that citizens will give me the mandate to become the next chancellor of Germany.”

Green candidate Annalena Baerbock is expected to vote in Potsdam later Sunday. Merkel's spokesman has said that the outgoing leader was casting a postal ballot -- as many Germans are expected to in this election.

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BERLIN - Voters are delivering a mixed verdict on the era of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel as they choose a new German parliament, and some are struggling with the choice of potential new leaders.

Polls opened Sunday after a rollercoaster campaign. Recent surveys point to a very close race between Merkel's center-right Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats, with the Greens trailing in third.

In Berlin's Kreuzberg district, a traditional leftwing stronghold, Jan Kemper, a 41-year-old manager at an online bank, said the climate crisis and Germany's slow pace of digitalization were among his main concerns.

He praised Merkel's crisis management style but said that key issues were left unattended.

“This election is extremely important,” he said. “Previously, elections set the course for the next two to four years. Now decisions have to be made that will affect the next generations.”

In Berlin's Mitte district, 48-year-old social worker Wiebke Bergmann said that “this election is really special, I think, because Angela Merkel is not running again.”

She said: “I really thought hard about which candidate I want as next chancellor - until this morning I hadn't made up my mind. None of the three really convinced me.”

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BERLIN - German voters are choosing a new parliament in an election that will determine who succeeds Chancellor Angela Merkel after her 16 years at the helm of Europe's biggest economy.

Polls point to a very close race Sunday. The battle is between Merkel's center-right Union bloc with state governor Armin Laschet running for chancellor and the center-left Social Democrats for whom outgoing finance minister and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz is seeking the top job.

Recent surveys show the Social Democrats marginally ahead. They also show the environmentalist Greens who are putting forth candidate Annalena Baerbock are in third place several points behind. About 60.4 million people in the nation of 83 million are eligible to elect the new parliament.

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BERLIN - Two climate activists have ended their hunger strike after a leading candidate for chancellor of Germany agreed to a public meeting with them following Sunday's general election.

The decision came just hours after the hunger strikers had escalated their protest Saturday, refusing liquids in addition to food. They had demanded that Olaf Scholz, the candidate for the Social Democrats, declare publicly that Germany faces a climate emergency.

Scholz confirmed the planned meeting in a statement on Twitter, saying saving lives takes precedent. Scholz and his two rivals for the top job had refused to meet with the hunger strikers before the election.

Armin Laschet, Christian Democratic Union parties candidate foe Chancellery and Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia laughs after he casts his vote for the German parliament election in Aachen, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. Sept. 26, 2021 about 60.4 million people in the nation of 83 million are eligible to elect the new Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, which will elect the next head of government. (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP)
A man casts his ballot for the German elections in a polling station in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. In background the German national flag. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Clouds drift over the Reichstag building with the German parliament in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. German elections are held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Voters stand in front of a European, German and Berlin flag at a polling station to cast their votes in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. German elect a new national parliament. (Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP)
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier casts his vote for the national elections in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Pool via AP)
Social Democratic Party, SPD, candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz casts his vote for the German parliament election in Potsdam, Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. (Wolfgang Rattay/Pool via AP)
An election volunteer opens the polling box for a woman that she can casts her vote for Germany's national parliament election at a polling station in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. German voters are choosing a new parliament in an election that will determine who succeeds Chancellor Angela Merkel after her 16 years at the helm of Europe's biggest economy. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
A man casts his vote for Germany's national parliament election at a polling station in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. German voters are choosing a new parliament in an election that will determine who succeeds Chancellor Angela Merkel after her 16 years at the helm of Europe's biggest economy. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)