Scholz is clear favourite for chancellor once a coalition is formed, after the SPD edged out the conservatives.
Germany’s Social Democrats have edged out Merkel’s conservatives, but coalition talks will take months.
Tens of millions of Germans to cast ballots in what is seen as the first real contest in many years.
Germany’s vote on Sunday marks the end of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 16 years in office.
Hundreds flock to Görlitz town square to hear party leaders rail against the political elite, migrants and vaccines.
Environmental campaigners say authorities are not moving fast enough to cut carbon emissions and curb climate change.
Since 2015, China has been Germany’s largest trading partner, but close economic ties are under increasing scrutiny.
German election comes at key time for the bloc, which is dealing with pandemic, defence issues and rising illiberalism.
Angela Merkel’s successor will take over with relations between both countries at their lowest point in years.
With weeks until Germany’s vote, none of the hopeful candidates are proving as popular as the outgoing chancellor.