Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats were locked in a very close race on Sunday with outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right bloc, which is heading toward its worst-ever result in the country’s parliamentary election, projections showed.
Top officials from both parties said they hope to lead Germany’s next government and have their candidates succeed Merkel, who has been in power since 2005.
Projections for ARD public television, based on exit polls and early counting, put voters’ support at 24.9 per cent for the Social Democrats — which is putting forth outgoing Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz for chancellor — and 24.7 per cent for Merkel’s Union bloc under would-be successor state governor Armin Laschet.
Separate projections for ZDF public television put the Social Democrats ahead by 25.6 per cent to 24.4 per cent. Both put the environmentalist Greens in third place with about 15 per cent support.
Those results would be the worst for the Union bloc in post-Second World War Germany.
People cast their ballots in a polling station set up at the Museum Moderne Galerie in Saarbruecken on Sunday. (Oliver Dietze/dpa/The Associated Press)
The electoral system typically produces coalition governments, but post-war Germany has never previously seen a winning party take less than the 31 per cent of the vote that the Union won in 1949. That was also the centre-right bloc’s worst result until now.
Given the exit poll predictions, putting together the next coalition government for Europe’s biggest economy could be a lengthy and complicated process. Merkel will remain as a caretaker leader until a new government is in place. In German elections, the party that finishes first is best placed, but not guaranteed, to provide the next chancellor.
The projections also put support for the business-friendly Free Democrats at about 11 per cent and the Left Party at five per cent. The far-right Alternative for Germany party — which no other party wants to work with — was seen winning about 11 per cent of the vote.
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