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

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BERLIN – 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 for its worst result in the country’s parliamentary election, projections showed. .

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Top officials from both parties said they hoped to lead Germany’s next government and that their candidate would replace Merkel, who has been in power since 2005.

ARD public television projections based on exit polls and early vote counting put voter support at 25.5% for the Social Democrats, whose chancellor’s candidate is outgoing Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and 24.5% for Merkel’s union bloc to be the successor Armin. Lecht, the governor of Germany’s most populous state.

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The Social Democrats were ahead of the Social Democrats 25.7% to 24.6% in separate estimates for ZDF public television. Both ranked environmentalist Greens in third place, with about 14% support.

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

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The electoral system usually produces coalition governments but post-war Germany has never seen a winning party with less than 31% of the vote that the Union won in 1949. It was also the centre-right bloc’s worst result ever.

Given the predictions, putting together the next coalition government for Europe’s largest economy could be a long and complicated bargaining process. In Germany, the party that comes first is best placed to provide the next chancellor, but this is not guaranteed. Merkel will remain as caretaker leader until the parties form a new coalition and form a new government.

Sunday’s estimates put support for the business-friendly Free Democrats at around 12% and the Left Party at 5%. The far-right alternative to the Germany party – with which no other party wants to work – was seen garnering around 11% of the vote, slightly less than the 12.6% it won in 2017, when it first entered parliament. had entered.

Surrounded by Merkel and her party’s top officials, Lashet said “we cannot be satisfied with the result” predicted by exit polls, as the union bloc took 32.9% of the vote four years ago.

“The result puts Germany, the Union, all democratic parties before great challenges,” he said. “We will do everything possible to form a federal-led government, because Germany now needs a coalition for the future that will modernize our country.”

Lechette’s possible path to power is an alliance with the Greens and Free Democrats.

Meanwhile, the Social Democrats bounced back in 2017 after only 20.5% of the vote and have slipped significantly below that in recent years. Their general secretary, Lars Klingbeil, said, “With this, we have a mission to build a coalition.” He would not say which alliance partners would be approached.

Social Democrats Scholz may also form a coalition with the Greens and Free Democrats if the projected results stall. The Greens traditionally lean toward Scholz’s party and Laschet toward the Free Democrats.

Scholz declared the predicted result a “great success”. He said that many voters chose his party “because they want to change the government and because they want this country’s next chancellor to be Olaf Scholz.”

“Now we will wait for the final election result, but then we will get to work,” he told supporters in Berlin.

The Social Democrats have been boosted by the relative popularity of Scholz and the troubled campaigns of his rivals after his long turnout. The Greens’ first-time candidate for chancellor, Annalena Berbock, suffered from early gaffes, and North Rhine-Westphalia state governor Lechet struggled to inspire her party’s traditional base.

The Greens saw their support increase significantly, but they expected more.

“We made a lot of gains, but it’s hard for me to really enjoy it,” said Greens general secretary Michael Kellner. She said her party has said it likes to work with the Social Democrats, but added, “We are ready to talk with all democratic parties to see what is possible.”

The leader of the Free Democrats, Christian Lindner, said “the chances that we can implement our program” are high in alliance with the Union bloc, but did not rule out other coalitions.

Another possible governing combination would be a repeat of the outgoing “grand coalition” of Germany’s traditional major parties, the Union Bloc and the Social Democrats, which would end up ahead of either Scholz or Lachette. But none of the rivals seem to have much appetite for it after Merkel’s 16 years in power for 12 years forging an often tense coalition.

About 60.4 million people in the EU’s 83 million nation were eligible to elect the new Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, which would elect the next head of government.

Merkel, who has won praise for propelling Germany through several major crises, will not be an easy leader to follow. His successor will have to oversee the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which Germany has so far weathered relatively well thanks to large rescue programs.

Laschet insisted there should be no tax increase as Germany exits the pandemic. Scholz and Baerbock support tax increases for the richest Germans, and also support an increase in the minimum wage.

There are significant differences between Germany’s major parties in their proposals to tackle climate change. Lachette’s union bloc is pinning its hopes on technological solutions and a market-driven approach, while the Greens want to hike carbon prices and end coal use earlier than planned. Scholz has emphasized the need to protect jobs as Germany transitions to green energy.

There was not much foreign policy in the campaign, although the Greens favor a tough stance towards China and Russia.

In two regional elections also held on Sunday, Berlin could get its first green mayor, a position the Social Democrats have held for two decades, and the Social Democrats were poised for a strong victory in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg West-Pomerania.

Frank Jordan, Kirsten Grishber and Karin Lobb contributed to this report.

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