BERLIN (AP) – Germany is embarking on a potentially lengthy search for its next government after the center-left Social Democrats narrowly defeated outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc in an election that could not set a clear direction for Europe largest economy under a new leader.
The leaders of the parties in the newly elected parliament met on Monday to digest a result that saw Merkel’s Union bloc fall to its worst result ever in a national elections, and seemed to put the keys to power in the hands of two opposition parties.
Both the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, who pulled his party out of a years-long decline, and Armin Laschet, the candidate for Merkel’s party, who saw his party’s fortunes fall in a troubled campaign, claimed to lead the next government. Scholz is the outgoing vice-chancellor and finance minister, and Laschet is governor of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia.
The one who becomes chancellor will do so, as his party has won a smaller share of the vote than any of his predecessors. Who gets the job is likely to depend on the decision of future junior partners, environmentalists and the business-friendly Free Democrat parties that traditionally belong to rival ideological camps.
“Voters have spoken very clearly,” Scholz said Monday. “They strengthened three parties – the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Free Democrats – so that is the visible mandate given to the citizens of this country: These three parties should lead the next government.”
The only other option that would have a parliamentary majority is a repeat of the “grand coalition” in the Union and the Social Democrats. It is the grouping that has driven Germany for 12 years of Merkel’s 16-year tenure and has often been marred by quarrels, but this time it would be under Scholz’s leadership with Merkel’s bloc as junior partner. However, there is a little appetite for that.
Scholz said the union “received the message from its citizens that they should no longer be in government but go into opposition.”
Merkel’s outgoing government remains in office until a successor is sworn in, a process that could take weeks or months. Merkel announced in 2018 that she would not seek a fifth term.
The Greens have traditionally leaned towards the Social Democrats and the Free Democrats towards the Union, but none of them ruled out going the other way on Sunday night. The Greens achieved significant gains in the election to finish in third place, but fell far short of their original goal of taking the chancellery, while the Free Democrats improved slightly on a good result from 2017.
Julia Reuschenbach, a political analyst at the University of Bonn, told ARD-TV that a Laschet-led government “is not excluded in principle”, although the Social Democrats will push the argument that the result shows that the Germans want them to lead it. new administration. “Ultimately, of course, the parties will have to agree on substantive issues,” she said.
Final official results gave the Social Democrats 25.7% of the vote and the Union 24.1%. Four years ago, they won 20.5% and 32.9%, respectively. The union – consisting of Laschet’s Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister, the Christian Social Association – had never before voted below 31% in a national parliamentary election.
The Greens took 14.8%, the Free Democrats 11.5% and the far-right alternative for Germany 10.3% – a decrease from the 12.6% it took to enter parliament for the first time in 2017. It smallest party in the new parliament is the Left Party, which won only 4.9% of the vote.
The new Bundestag or the lower house of parliament has a record 735 legislators. The house varies in size due to a peculiarity of Germany’s electoral system, which means that it can be significantly larger than a minimum of 598 seats.
The Social Democrats won 206 seats, the Union 196, the Greens 118, the Free Democrats 92, the Alternative for Germany 83 and the Left Party 39. One seat went to the Danish minority party SSW, which will be represented for the first time in decades.
Follow the AP’s coverage of Germany’s elections at https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election
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