German election tight; Merkel’s bloc eyes worst result yet

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s center-left Social Democrats were locked in a very close race Sunday with outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc, which was 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 from ARD public television, based on exit polls and early counting, put voters’ support at 25.5% for the Social Democrats, whose candidate for chancellor is outgoing Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and 24.5% for Merkel’s Union bloc under would-be successor Armin Laschet, governor of Germany’s most populous state.

Separate projections for ZDF public television had the Social Democrats ahead by 25.7% to 24.6%. Both put the environmentalist Greens in third place with about 14% support.

Those results would be the worst for the Union bloc in post-World War II Germany.

The electoral system typically produces coalition governments but post-war Germany has never previously seen a winning party take less than the 31% of the vote that the Union won in 1949. That was also the center-right bloc’s worst result until now.

Given the predictions, putting together the next coalition government for Europe’s biggest economy could be a lengthy and complicated haggling process. In Germany, the party that finishes first is best-placed, but not guaranteed, to provide the next chancellor. Merkel will remain as a caretaker leader until the parties sort out a new coalition among themselves and a new government is in place.

The projections Sunday also put support for the business-friendly Free Democrats at about 12% and the Left Party at 5%. The far-right Alternative for Germany party — which no other party wants to work with — was seen winning around 11% of the vote, down slightly from the 12.6% it won in 2017, when it first entered parliament.


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