Conservatives, social democrats tied in vote to decide Angela Merkel successor

Germany’s CDU/CSU conservatives and their Social Democrat rivals were virtually tied in Sunday’s national election, exit polls showed, leaving open which of them will lead the next government as Angela Merkel prepares to stand down after 16 years in power.

The CDU/CSU bloc won 25% of the vote, their weakest result in a post-war federal election and on a par with the centre-left Social Democrat (SPD), the infratest poll for broadcaster ARD showed. A Forschungsgruppe Wahlen poll for broadcaster ZDF put the SPD and its chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz on 26% and the CDU/CSU on 24%.

“The SPD is back. We are where we belong,” SPD Secretary General Lars Klingbeil said shortly after first exit polls. He said the polls showed the SPD and its chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz had the mandate to govern.

CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak told ARD after the publication of their poll: “That hurts”.

Attention will now shift to informal discussions – likely with the Greens, on 15%, and liberal Free Democrats (FDP), on 11% – followed by more formal coalition negotiations, which could take months, leaving Merkel in charge in a caretaker role.

“This will be all about striking deals among multiple players, and several options seem possible,” said Carsten Nickel at Teneo, a political risk consultancy. “The talks could take some time.”

Merkel has been in power since 2005 but plans to step down after the election, making the vote an era-changing event to set the future course of Europe’s largest economy.

The election pitted Armin Laschet, of the CDU, against Scholz, the finance minister in Merkel’s “grand coalition” who won all three televised debates between the leading candidates.

After a domestic-focused election campaign, Berlin’s allies in Europe and beyond may have to wait for months before they can see whether the new German government is ready to engage on foreign issues to the extent they would like. Reuters

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