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BERLIN (AP) – Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats won the largest share of the vote in a national election on Sunday, defeating outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right union bloc in a close contest that will determine whether the long-term Till the leader who succeeds at the top of Europe’s largest economy.

Social Democrats candidate Olaf Scholz, the outgoing chancellor and finance minister who pulled his party out of a year-long recession, said the result was “a very clear mandate to now ensure that we have a good, workable future for Germany.” Keep the government together.”

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Despite the worst ever result in a federal contest, the union bloc said it would also reach out to smaller parties to discuss government formation, while Merkel remains in caretaker until a successor is sworn in.

Election officials said early Monday that a count of all 299 constituencies showed the Social Democrats received 25.9% of the vote, ahead of 24.1% for the Union bloc. No winning party had previously taken less than 31% of the vote in the German national election.

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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 set to reduce by some measure of 31% the union’s previous worst performance 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 Lachette and Scholz would attract the same two sides: the environmentalist Greens, who were third with 14.8%; and Pro-Business Free Democrats, who took 11.5% of the vote.

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.

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“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 Left Party was projected to win only 4.9% of the vote and was at risk of being voted out of parliament altogether. The farthest option for Germany – which no one else wants to work with – received 10.3%. This was about 2 percentage points lower than in 2017, when it first entered parliament.

Due to Germany’s complex electoral system, a complete breakdown of the results of seats in parliament was still pending.

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.

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“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.

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