BERLIN – The centre-left Social Democrats have won the largest share of the vote in Germany’s national election, beating outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right union bloc in a close contest.

- Advertisement -

Election officials said early Monday that a count of all 299 constituencies showed the Social Democrats won 25.9% of the vote, ahead of 24.1% for the Union bloc.

Environmentalist Greens came third with 14.8%, followed by pro-business Free Democrats with 11.5%. Both the parties have already indicated that they are ready to discuss a three-way alliance with either of their two big rivals to form the government.

advertisement

The far-right alternative to Germany came fourth with 10.3% of the vote on Sunday, while the Left won 4.9% of the vote.

Officials said Denmark’s minority party SSW was set to win a seat in parliament for the first time since 1949.

- Advertisement -

This is a breaking news update. AP’s earlier story is below:

Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats and outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right bloc both claimed to lead the country’s next government on Sunday, even as projections showed the long-time leader’s party national The election is heading towards its worst result.

The results appear to show Europe’s largest economy is in long-delaying negotiations to form a new government, while Merkel remains in caretaker until a successor is sworn in. A three-party governing coalition, in which there have traditionally been two opposition parties. Rival ideological camps – the environmentalist Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats – would provide potential routes to power for both leading candidates.

Of the three candidates to succeed Merkel, only one, who opted not to run for a fifth term, looked happy after Sunday’s vote: the Social Democrats’ Olaf Scholz, the outgoing chancellor and finance minister who voted his party a year-long. time dragged down

Scholz said the projected outcome “now has a very clear mandate to ensure that we put together a good, workable government for Germany.”

A partial count based on 267 of the 299 constituencies showed the Social Democrats leading with 25.7% of the vote against 24.6% for the Union Bloc. No winning party had previously taken less than 31% of the vote in the German national election.

The Greens, who made their first bid for chancellor with co-leader Annalena Berbock, were running third with 14.1%, while the pro-business Free Democrats had 11.5% of the vote by partial count.

North Rhine-Westphalia state governor Armin Laschet, who overthrew a more popular rival to secure the nomination of Merkel’s union bloc, had struggled to motivate the party’s base and faced many misunderstandings. Was.

“Of course, it’s the loss of votes that isn’t pretty,” Lachette said of the results, which were less than the union’s previous worst performance of 31% in 1949. But he added that after 16 years in power with Merkel leaving, “nobody had any bonuses in this election.”

Lachette told supporters that “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.”

Both Laschet and Scholz may be dating the same two parties. The Greens traditionally lean toward the Social Democrats and the Union toward the Free Democrats, but neither refuses to go the other way.

The other option was a repeat of the outgoing “grand coalition” of the Union and the Social Democrats, which has led Germany to 12 years in power over Merkel’s 16 years but had little appetite for it after years of struggle for government.

“Everybody thinks that … this ‘grand alliance’ is not promising for the future, no matter what No. 1 and No. 2 are,” Lasquet said. “We need a real fresh start.”

The leader of the Free Democrats, Christian Lindner, keen to govern, suggested that his party and the Greens should take the first step.

“About 75% of Germans did not vote for the next chancellor’s party,” Lindner said in a post-election debate with leaders of all parties on the public broadcaster ZDF. “So it may be advisable … that the Greens and the Free Democrats talk to each other first to structure everything that comes later.”

Burbock stressed that “the climate crisis … is the key issue of the next government, and it is the basis for any dialogue for us … even if we are not completely satisfied with our outcome.”

While the Greens improved their support from the last election in 2017, they had high hopes for Sunday’s vote.

The two parties were not in contention to join Germany’s next government. The Left Party was projected to win only 4.7% of the vote and was at risk of being voted out of parliament altogether. The farthest option for Germany – with whom no one else wants to work – was seen winning 10.6%. This was about 2 percentage points lower than in 2017, when it first entered parliament.

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.

Germany’s major parties have significant differences when it comes to taxation and tackling climate change.

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

Whichever party forms the next German government, the Free Democrats Lindner said it was “good news” that it would have a majority with centrist parties.

“All those in Europe and beyond who were concerned about the stability of Germany can now see: Germany will remain stable in any case,” he said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sent Scholz an early congratulation.

“Spain and Germany will continue to work together for a stronger Europe and for a fair and green recovery that leaves no one behind,” he wrote on Twitter.

Even in the two regional elections held on Sunday, the Social Democrats appeared ready to defend the position of mayor of Berlin, which they have held for two decades. The party was also set for a strong victory in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg West-Pomerania.

——

Associated Press writers Kirsten Grishber and Karin Lobb contributed to this report.