According to preliminary official results reported early Monday by the federal German election agency, the Social Democratic Party narrowly defeated Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union by a slim margin of 1.6 percentage points.
The Election officials said that a count of all 299 constituencies showed the Social Democrats won 25.9 per cent of the vote, ahead of 24.1 per cent for the Union bloc.
Both the Greens and the Free Democrats also increased their share of seats in Parliament, to 14.8 per cent and 11.5 per cent, respectively. The close outcome indicates that the Social Democrats must team up with other parties to form a government.
“And in the complex equation that can be required in Germany to form a government, it is possible that if the winning party fails to get others on board, the party that placed second could wind up leading the country,” officials said.
The Social Democrats’ candidate Olaf Scholz, the outgoing vice chancellor and finance minister, described the outcome as “a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good, pragmatic government for Germany.
“Voters have clearly spoken. They have said who should build the next government by strengthening three parties, the Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the Free Democrats. Consequently, that is the clear mandate that voters of this country have given, that these three parties should create the next government.
“People checked the box for the S.P.D. because they want there to be a change of government in this country and because they want the next chancellor to be called Olaf Scholz.”
The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia and the candidate of Ms Merkel’s Union bloc Armin Laschet, who had struggled to motivate the party’s base and suffered a series of missteps in getting his nomination said, “Of course, this is a loss of votes that isn’t pretty.”
He added that with Ms. Merkel departing after 16 years in power, “no one had an incumbent bonus in this election.”
He told supporters that “we will do everything we can to form a government under the Union’s leadership, because Germany now needs a coalition for the future that modernizes our country.”
Sunday’s election indicated the end of an era for Germany and for Europe as Angela Merkel, who spent 16 years in power, failed to produce a clear winner.
Foreign policy expert who believed that Ms Merkel was not just chancellor of Germany but effectively the leader of Europe said, “She steered her country and the continent through successive crises and in the process helped Germany become Europe’s leading power for the first time since World War II.”