Social Dems Narrowly Win in Germany 09/27 06:06
BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's center-left Social Democrats won the biggest share
of the vote in a national election Sunday, narrowly beating outgoing Chancellor
Angela Merkel 's center-right Union bloc in a closely fought race that will
determine who succeeds the long-time leader at the helm of Europe's biggest
The Social Democrats' candidate Olaf Scholz, the outgoing vice chancellor
and finance minister who pulled his party out of a years-long slump, said the
outcome was "a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good,
pragmatic government for Germany."
Despite getting its worst-ever result in a federal contest, the Union bloc
said it too would reach out to smaller parties to discuss forming a government,
while Merkel stays on in a caretaker role 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 in a German national election had previously taken
less than 31% of the vote.
Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state who
outmaneuvered a more popular rival to secure the nomination of Merkel's Union
bloc, had struggled to motivate the party's base and suffered a series of
"Of course, this is a loss of votes that isn't pretty," Laschet said of
results that looked set to undercut by some measure the Union's previous worst
showing of 31% in 1949. But he added that with Merkel departing after 16 years
in power, "no one had an incumbent bonus in this election."
Laschet told supporters that "we will do everything we can to form a
government under the Union's leadership, because Germany now needs a coalition
for the future that modernizes our country."
Both Laschet and Scholz will be courting the same two parties: the
environmentalist Greens, who were third with 14.8%; and the pro-business Free
Democrats, who took 11.5% of the vote.
The Greens traditionally lean toward the Social Democrats and the Free
Democrats toward the Union, but neither ruled out going the other way.
The other option was a repeat of the outgoing "grand coalition" of the Union
and Social Democrats that has run Germany for 12 of Merkel's 16 years in power,
but there was little obvious appetite for that after years of government
"Everyone thinks that ... this 'grand coalition' isn't promising for the
future, regardless of who is No. 1 and No. 2," Laschet said. "We need a real
The Free Democrats' leader, Christian Lindner, appeared keen to govern,
suggesting that his party and the Greens should make the first move.
"About 75% of Germans didn't vote for the next chancellor's party," Lindner
said in a post-election debate with all parties' leaders on public broadcaster
ZDF. "So it might be advisable ... that the Greens and Free Democrats first
speak to each other to structure everything that follows."
Baerbock insisted that "the climate crisis ... is the leading issue of the
next government, and that is for us the basis for any talks ... even if we
aren't totally satisfied with our result."
While the Greens improved their support from the last election in 2017, they
had higher expectations for Sunday's vote.
The Left Party was projected to win only 4.9% of the vote and risked being
kicked out of parliament entirely. The far-right Alternative for Germany --
which no one else wants to work with -- received 10.3%. This was about 2
percentage points less than in 2017, when it first entered parliament.
Due to Germany's complicated electoral system, a full breakdown of the
result by seats in parliament was still pending.
Merkel, who has won plaudits for steering Germany through several major
crises, won't be an easy leader to follow. Her successor will have to oversee
the country's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which Germany so far has
weathered relatively well thanks to large rescue programs.
Germany's leading parties have significant differences when it comes to
taxation and tackling climate change.
Foreign policy didn't feature much in the campaign, although the Greens
favor a tougher stance toward China and Russia.
Whichever parties form the next German government, the Free Democrats'
Lindner said it was "good news" that it would have a majority with centrist
"All of those in Europe and beyond who were worried about Germany's
stability can now see: Germany will be stable in any case," he said.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sent early congratulations to Scholz.
"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.
In two regional elections also held Sunday, the Social Democrats looked set
to defend the post of Berlin mayor that they have held for two decades. The
party was also on course for a strong win in the northeastern state of
For the first time since 1949, the Danish minority party SSW was set to win
a seat in parliament, officials said.