German election: Angela Merkel on track for fourth term | Germany News

Chancellor Angela Merkel is projected to win a fourth term in office after exit polls showed her conservative bloc winning 33.5 percent of the vote in a national election.

Exit polls by public TV stations ARD and ZDF put support for Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc down eight points from the last election in 2013, but still well ahead of their closest rivals, Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats (SPD), who slumped to 20.0 percent.

This was a new post-war low for the centre-left party, which are currently junior partners in a so-called “grand coalition” with Merkel.

The far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) is set to enter the federal parliament for the first time, projected to win 13.5 percent of the vote.

The pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) bounced back into parliament with 10.1 percent of the vote, while the environmental Greens scored 9.2 percent and the leftist Die Linke picked up 8.9 per cent.

Looming coalition 

Polls opened at 8am (0600 GMT) and closed at 6pm (16:00 GMT) with turnout slightly lower than four years ago.

Merkel must now form a coalition government – an arduous process that could take months as all potential partners are unsure whether they really want to share power with her.

SPD deputy leader Manuela Schwesig said her party would now go into opposition. That would rule out a re-run of Merkel’s existing alliance with the SPD.

An alternative coalition for Merkel would be a three-way tie-up with the FDP and the Greens. That is a combination as yet untested at national level.

Both the FDP and the Greens have played down the prospect of a coalition, but as they have been out of government for four and 12 years respectively, they may be lured into an alliance by the prospect of power.

Merkel campaigned on her record as chancellor for 12 years, emphasising the country’s record-low unemployment, strong economic growth, balanced budget and growing international importance.

The election victory sets the 63-year-old on course to match Helmut Kohl’s record as the longest serving leader in German’s post war history.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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