Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party has won Germany’s election, so Merkel is set to keep her post for four more years, with her Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party drawing a remarkable 41.5% of the vote.
“This is a super result,” Merkel told cheering supporters. “Together, we will do all we can to make the next four years successful ones for Germany.”
The 59-year-old benefited from a strong economy and low unemployment that have helped keep her personal popularity sky-high – a contrast with the string of leaders who have lost their jobs in other European countries since the continent’s debt crisis erupted three years ago.
“I see the next four years in front of me and I can promise that we will face many tasks, at home, in Europe and in the world,” Merkel said during a television appearance with other party leaders.
However after her Free Democratic Party junior allies flunked out of parliament, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) needs a new partner to govern and has two options, though neither leftist bedfellow is an easy match.
The most likely is a right-left “grand coalition” with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), whose result of less than 26 percent dwarfed the 41.5 percent for Merkel’s conservative bloc, its best since Germany’s joyous 1990 reunification.
The Social Democrats governed with Ms. Merkel in her first term from 2005 to 2009, and polls show that many Germans would be happy with such an outcome, known as a “grand coalition” because it would unite the country’s two largest political parties. Such a government would also have a majority in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, offering support for Ms. Merkel throughout the legislature, says the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile for a potential coalition with the Greens it said “the biggest hurdle” had been removed after Merkel abruptly U-turned to embrace existing nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.
The results showed that the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) won only 4.8%, which correspondents say is a disaster for the junior coalition partner, leaving it with no national representation in parliament for the first time in Germany’s post-war history.
Party chairman Philipp Roesler called it “the bitterest, saddest hour of the Free Democratic Party”.
Her centre-left rival Peer Steinbrueck, whose Social Democrats (SPD) came in second place on around 26 percent, said it was for Merkel to decide now what a future government will look like.
“Angela Merkel is stronger than ever, also in her party,” said Manfred Guellner, the head of the Forsa polling agency. “But governing is going to be odd because she will have to form a `grand coalition’ although she is only a few seats away from an absolute majority.”
Regardless of what government she ends up with, the chancellor faces major challenges in a new term, from bedding down her complex shift from nuclear to renewable energy, setting out a vision for a euro zone plagued by recession and high unemployment, and warding off a looming demographic crisis, reports Reuters.