After 16 years as Germany’s chancellor—and, some say, the de facto leader of Europe—Angela Merkel is stepping down. The long-serving head of government is not seeking another term at the end of this month, and her looming absence from the front lines of politics will reverberate well beyond her country’s borders.

Here’s what to know:

First and foremost, who will replace her?

The race has stayed close in the days leading up to Sunday’s vote to elect a new Bundestag, or parliament. Germany’s political landscape is dominated by two major parties: the Christian Democrats (CDU)—the center-right group from which Merkel hails—and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). Predictably, two primary frontrunners have emerged from these factions—but this year, the race also welcomes an unexpected challenger from the historically low-profile Greens party.

Here are the candidates to know:

  • Armin Laschet (CDU): The leader of the CDU…

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