Sept 20 - As Germany prepares to go to the polls, Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition looks to have held on to its narrow lead in the polls. But she's been disappointed by the pollsters before, as her Christian Democrats and their Bavarian CSU sister party have fallen short of forecasts in the past six elections. Joanna Partridge reports from Berlin on just how close the race is.
Just days before she hopes to be re-elected Chancellor, Angela Merkel's certainly able to pull a crowd. At least her waxwork is. A new version of her wax figure was unveiled at Madame Tussauds in Berlin, as she looks on track to win a third term on Sunday. SOUNDBITE: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying (German): "I like doing it, I like serving the people of Germany and I want to continue." The first voters have already cast their ballots - in person or by post. The race looks very tight - and as they won't get an outright majority, it's not clear who Merkel's Christian Democrats will govern with. Support for her current coalition partners the FDP has slid. The likelihood of another grand coalition with the opposition Social Democrats has increased, and their Chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck made a last-minute attempt to win over more voters. Manfred Guellner is Director of the Forsa Market Research Institute. SOUNDBITE: Manfred Guellner, Director of the Forsa Market Research Institute, saying (German): "During the election campaign the Grand Coalition has won support because many people want politics that is more orientated towards the general consensus, and many want the SPD and the CDU to jointly deal with problems, despite the existing differences between the two political groups." SOUNDBITE: Joanna Partridge, Reuters reporter, saying (English): "Merkel's been sorely disappointed before by the pollsters. Her CDU party has fallen short of forecasts in the past six elections. That's why there's been no let-up in her campaign, she's spoken at two rallies almost every day for the past month up and down the country." Voter surveys used to be highly accurate. But they've become less reliable as turnout has fallen, differences between the parties have disappeared and newcomers have arrived on the scene. One of those is the Eurosceptic party, Alternative for Germany - which wants to force weaker southern countries out of the euro. Whoever she ends up working with - Merkel faces some big challenges in her third term. She's got to smooth the path of a costly and complex switch from nuclear to renewable energy that has worried German industry, and reform the economy in the face of an ageing population and low birthrate. And that's just at home - she also has to ensure the euro zone crisis doesn't flare up again. Quite a checklist for any leader.