Merkel wins 4th term in office as far-right wins parliamentary seats

Frauke Petry flounces out

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc was on course Sunday for a lackluster victory in Germany's national election while the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany party was heading for a triumphant entry into parliament, projections suggested.

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in partnership with its sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) is projected to take 32.5 percent of the vote in the exit poll conducted by ARD/Infratest Dimap.

Speaking to subdued supporters, Schulz of the SPD pledged that his party would "bear the consequences" and enter the opposition benches, in recognition he said that voters had signalled that they did not wish a continuation of the grand coalition between the SPD and CDU/CSU, which has dominated most of Merkel's time in government since 2005.

Data released by German authority showed that as of 2:00 p.m. local time (1200 GMT), 41.1 percent of eligible voters cast their votes.

Addressing CDU supporters in Berlin, a somewhat subdued looking Merkel thanked "voters who put their trust in us". "As from now there is once again a Freedom faction in Germany, because the people allowed us to make a comeback", he said, calling the result a "new start" for his party.

Who will join Merkel in her new government is unclear and may not be decided for weeks.

The AfD's propulsion into parliament just four years into its existence gives the country its first far-right force on the national stage since 1961, and a faction with the most substantial presence of rightwing extremists since the Nazi era.

But in a bombshell for the German establishment, the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) captured around 13 percent, catapulting it to become the country's third biggest political force. Six parties are now poised to enter the lower house, the Bundestag, for the first time since 1953. That would be the worst result since World War II for the party, which has served since 2013 as the junior partner in a "grand coalition" of Germany's biggest parties under Merkel.

After shock election results a year ago, from the Brexit vote to the election of US President Donald Trump, leaders of Europe's establishment have looked to Merkel to rally the liberal Western order.

Three’s a crowd AfD’s Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel with the soon-to-exit Petry
Three’s a crowd AfD’s Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel with the soon-to-exit Petry

"This is a hard and bitter day for German social democracy", a grim-faced Schulz, a former European Parliament chief, told reporters, adding that he hoped to remain party leader.

AfD capitalized on discontent with established politicians but particularly targeted those angry over the influx of more than 1 million mostly Muslim migrants into Germany in the past two years under Merkel. Apart from the challenge of the AfD, the task ahead is "first and foremost to ensure economic prosperity" and "to hold the European Union together and build a strong Europe", she said.

Another big victor Sunday was the pro-business Free Democratic Party, which appeared set to return to parliament with 10.5 percent of the vote. But she noted that her party has been in power for 12 years and said the last four years have been "extremely challenging".

Crowds of people have in the meantime gathered in front of the AfD HQ in Berlin, carrying banners reading "Racism kills" and chanting "Go away".

The traditionally left-leaning Greens were seen winning around 9.5 percent and the Left Party some 9 percent.

This means Merkel will likely have to form ties with the Greens and liberals, in the so-called Jamaica coalition.

Last year, a German Jewish leader called the AfD's success in a state election in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern "a nightmare come true".

"We have suffered a crushing election defeat", Schulz said.

The Left Party is incompatible with the conservatives and all have voted not to work with AfD.

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