Officials: Turnout high in German election

Turnout higher in German election after opinion polls predict close race

Associated Press
Officials: Turnout high in German election
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, chairwoman of the Christian Democratic party CDU, leaves her voting booth before casting her vote in Berlin, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. 62 million voters in Germany are entitled to elect a new parliament as Merkel runs for her third term as chancellor. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN (AP) -- German election officials say early indications of turnout in the country's national poll Sunday showed more voters casting their ballots than in 2009.

The Federal Returning Officer said 41.4 percent of eligible voters had voted by 2 p.m. (1200 GMT), four hours before polling stations closed.

In 2009 about 36.1 percent had voted by that hour

The final turnout of 70.8 percent in the last general election was a record low in post-war Germany.

Experts say a higher turnout could help the Social Democratic Party, whose leader Peer Steinbrueck is hoping to unseat Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Opinion polls published shortly before the election gave Merkel's conservative coalition a thin lead over the left-leaning opposition.

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