Exit polls suggest that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives are on course to win a historic absolute majority in today's election.

The projection suggests that Ms Merkel's conservatives on 42.5% , a whisker over the combined total for the left parties who together scored 41.6%.

The last time a German party won an absolute majority was in 1957 with conservative leader Konrad Adenauer.

The projection showed Ms Merkel's Free Democrat (FDP) allies and the anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) just failing to clear the 5% threshold needed to enter the Bundestaglower house.

Ms Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, has presided over a robust economy and booming labour market.

The 59-year-old's "step by step" leadership style is criticised abroad as too timid but applauded by many at home, where she was cheered as "Mutti", or Mum, on the campaign trail.

Of the 62m Germans eligible to vote, out of a population of 80m, about a third described themselves in the run-up to the election as undecided, adding to the uncertainty.