Germany election: SPD wins narrow victory as Merkel era ends in near-deadlock


Germany is set for weeks or even months of protracted coalition talks after the race to succeed Angela Merkel after 16 years in power failed to produce a clear winner, with the centre-left Social Democrats just ahead of the centre-right conservative alliance according to official returns.

Preliminary results released on the election commission’s website showed that the Social Democrats (SPD) led by Olaf Scholz had won the largest share of the vote at 25.7%.

The centre-right CDU-CSU bloc led for so long by the outgoing chancellor garnered 24.1%, its worst showing in its seven-decade history.

The Green party, in jubilant mood after winning 14.8% in its best result in a national poll, despite having lost the lead it held early on and dropping about 13 points since April, was confident of becoming a kingmaker in the upcoming coalition talks.

Both its candidate, Annalena Baerbock, at 40 the youngest chancellor candidate by some way, and the SPD’s Scholz expressed their willingness to work together, with Scholz quickly moving to congratulate the environmentalists and saying there were plenty of areas in which the parties overlapped.

But he said in the so-called “elephant round”, a television debate involving all the lead candidates two hours after polling booths closed, “out of respect for the citizens of this country, we cannot make any final decisions”. Scholz said his wish was for “constructive discussions, so that the whole country can recognise itself in the future government”.

The initial reaction of the SPD had been of cautious optimism as well as relief that Scholz, the incumbent finance minister, appeared to have retained gains made in the latter part of the campaign. Analysis of the result late on Sunday night by the pollster Infratest Dimap showed that the SPD had managed to secure the support of 1.36 million CDU/CSU voters. At the headquarters of the Christian Democrats (CDU), any relief that it had not slipped as low as polls suggested it might under Armin Laschet was overshadowed by the fact that it appeared to be heading for its worst result in a federal election. According to analysis it lost also around 900,000 voters to the Green party and 340,000 to the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), with the latter picking up between 11-12% of the national vote.

The Green party was also buoyed by having almost doubled its result compared with 2017, making more gains than any other party and beating the FDP into third place. It also convinced 250,000 previous non-voters to give it their votes. The results strongly indicate that the environmentalists are on track to enter a new government.

Source: The Guardian