Germany Social Democrats win election ahead of Merkel’s conservatives

Berlin, Sept. 27 (BNA): With all votes counted, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) won the Bundestag election ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bloc, CDU/CSU, according to the official website of the Federal Election Commissioner.

The SPD reached 25.7 percent, its best result in years, while Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc fell to a record 24.1 percent after many years in office, German news agency DPA reported ( dpa).

Earlier, both main candidates for the next German chancellor, Olaf Schulz and Christian Democrat, Armin Laschet, said they wanted to form the next government.

The next government will be the first in 16 years not to be led by Merkel after her four terms in the top office.

But her preferred successor, Laschet, is fighting for his political survival after voters voiced their discontent, causing the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) to plummet to their worst election result ever.

The CDU/CSU and the center-left SPD have been in a “grand coalition” for the past four years.

To thunderous applause at party headquarters in Berlin, Schulz expressed his delight at the SPD’s “great success”, a turnaround for a party that has long been in the doldrums.

In the last election, the party won 20.5 percent, and has seen its fortunes dwindle further while allying with the CDU/CSU.

But Schultz ran a successful campaign that underscored his competence and boosted his personal popularity with voters. He campaigned for a higher minimum wage, tax cuts for middle and low income earners, and new public investments.

He said voters have made it clear that they want a change of government — and that he be the next chancellor. “This is a mandate,” he said.

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He later said in a televised debate that he wanted to end coalition negotiations by Christmas.

It took nearly half a year to form a new government after the last federal election in 2017, although the process is usually faster than this.

The SPD’s slim margin of victory meant that on Sunday leading conservatives did not give up hope of forming the next government.

Laschet also earlier made the Chancellery’s claim. “We will do everything we can” to form a coalition led by the CDU/CSU, he said.

“We can’t be satisfied” with the result, Laschet added. The bloc’s vote share has fallen significantly from the 32.9 percent it won in 2017.

CDU general secretary Paul Zimyak lamented what he called “bitter losses”, but said he would still like to see a coalition that includes the CDU.

The focus in the coming days will be on individual parties as they decide what deals they will be willing to make to be part of a governing coalition in Europe’s largest economy.

The SPD could work with the Greens, who won 14.8 percent, and the pro-business Liberal Democrats (FDP), who took about 11.5 percent. An alliance with the hard-left Die Linke was disqualified due to the peaceful party’s poor performance in the elections, at around 4.9 percent.

The SPD could also join an alliance with CDU/CSU, but both sides have positioned themselves against this in recent weeks.

The CDU/CSU bloc could lead a coalition with the FDP and the Greens – something backed on Sunday by influential Bavarian leader Markus Soeder.

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But this delicate alliance – the so-called “Jamaica” coalition where the party colors match the Jamaican national flag – was attempted in 2017, only to collapse in dramatic fashion with the withdrawal of the FDP.

For the first time in its history, the Green Party has fielded a candidate for chancellor this year, but Annalena Barbock has seen her popularity plummet during the campaign.

Her party still has a good chance of entering into a three-way coalition with the Conservatives or the SPD.

On Sunday evening, she praised her party’s “historic best result” – its previous highest result of 10.7 percent in 2009.

She admitted to making mistakes during a campaign that saw her party’s vote share plummet after taking the lead early on.

Meanwhile, the far-right Alternative AfD became the strongest party in eastern Germany’s Thuringia for the first time with 24.0 percent.

The party, which is monitored by local intelligence (BfV) due to far-right tendencies, had 24.6 per cent in Saxony but slipped to 10.3 per cent nationally – fifth place.

According to forecasts, turnout in Sunday’s federal election ranged between 76 and 77 percent. The turnout in the last elections in 2017 was 76.2 percent.

Outgoing Chancellor Merkel is set to retire from politics once a new government is formed.

She is the second longest-running leader in the country, after Helmut Kohl, who led Germany through reunification.

If coalition negotiations continue into next year, it will outperform even Cole’s time in office.

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