Angela Merkel.pg
German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the start of the federal board meeting at the Christian Democrats (CDU) headquarters in Berlin, Germany, 18 July 2016.
Photograph: EPA/KAY NIETFELD

Local elections in the German capital were on track to see high turnout Sunday, with officials saying that about one-quarter of Berlin's approximately 2.5 million eligible voters had cast their ballots by midday.

That figure of 25.1 per cent voting by midday was 6 percentage points higher than at the same time in 2011, the last time the city-state went to the polls, officials said. Total voter turnout in 2011 was 60.2 per cent.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) could face another blow thanks to the tensions unleashed by Germany's refugee crisis, which is forecast to spark a surge in support for a new populist right-wing party.

Polls show the anti-foreigner Alternative for Germany (AfD) as gaining up to 15 per cent of the vote Sunday, resulting in a reshaping of the local government landscape of the nation’s capital.

The polls point to the Social Democrats (SPD) - led by Berlin's popular governing mayor, Michael Mueller - remaining the biggest party in the city's regional assembly. The SPD is projected to score up to 24 per cent of the vote.

But, after ruling the city the last five years, the current SPD-led coalition with the CDU could be replaced by a new three-party one comprising the SPD, the environmentalist Greens and the hard-left Die Linke.

With the AfD expected to steal votes from most of the major parties, Merkel's party could find itself battling it out with the Greens in a tight race for second place.

Both the Greens and the CDU are projected to garner about 18 per cent of the vote in the election.

Die Linke could emerge as one of the winners of Sunday's poll, with the party forecast to take up to about 15 per cent of the vote – up from 11.7 per cent in 2011.

A total of 927 candidates from 21 parties stood in the election.

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