The Federal Return Official website said the SPD won with 25.7% of the votes, followed by the CDU/CSU bloc with 24.1%, and the Green Party with 14.8% of the vote, after counting all 299 of Germany’s “districts” or constituencies.
The election ends Merkel’s 16-year stint in the top job, but her successor will not be decided until a coalition deal is negotiated.
SPD will now Begin negotiations to form the new government, a process that could take weeks – or even months. After Merkel won the elections in September 2017, it took more than five months for the government to form.
Although the preliminary count gives the SPD a small lead over its closest rival, the results indicate a significant improvement for the party that received 20.5% of the vote in the last election in 2017.
During vote counting, party leader Olaf Scholz described the result as a “huge success”.
“Many citizens have put their cross on the side of the SPD because they want there to be a change of government and also because they want the next chancellor of this country to be called Olaf Schulz,” He said.
The 63-year-old politician has served as Germany’s vice chancellor and finance minister in Merkel’s grand coalition government since 2018, earning him a growing profile as he toured Germany’s economic response to the pandemic.
“Now we will wait for the final result, but then we will get to work. Thank you!” Schulz said.
He was interrupted by loud applause and cheers from jubilant party supporters as he spoke.
Robin Fogman, 20, an ardent Schultz supporter, told CNN he was pleased with the results.
“It’s really an amazing result, people believe in Olaf Schultz, and people really think Armin Laschet can’t lead this country,” he said. “So we really have the mandate to lead a new government – I hope we do. And above all we will celebrate because this is a really great result.”
CDU leader: The party ‘cannot be satisfied’
Earlier in the evening, the mood at CDU headquarters was depressing as initial opinion polls came out. They proposed to the CDU, with its sister party, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, They were looking at the worst result in the history of the alliance.
“He cannot be satisfied with this result,” CDU leader Armin Laschet told his supporters, while noting that the final outcome was still unclear.
“We can expect that there can be a three-party government,” he said, saying that the party “will do everything in its power to try to build a coalition.”
Laschet added that the CDU “gained a mandate against a left-wing government”.
The party had campaigned on a message of stability for the country after Merkel, seen as a steady pair of hands for nearly 16 years, stepped down from power. But she is now coming to terms with what she herself called the night of bitter losses.
“When we look at how we lost compared to the last election, we get bitter,” CDU general secretary Paul Zimyak told CNN in an interview at party headquarters.
“But it is also clear that after these numbers there is no clear vision yet on who exactly lies ahead in the future and how,” he said.
“The question is, who can put together a stable government, and form a coalition for the future, for this country? We have many issues that need to be addressed — climate protection, innovation — but we also have to ensure stability and social security, which I think a coalition of CDU/CSU, The Greens and the FDP could do well, and that’s what we’ll talk about over the next few days.”
CDU’s Peter Altmaier, who was the federal minister of economic affairs and energy, told CNN that the election result was “in no way a landslide victory for the opposition parties” and showed “great confidence” in the CDU. Rule.
Speaking of the elections, he added: “The clear message to all people around the world is that democracy in Germany is quite stable, and this was not the day of the extremist parties – not from the left, not from the right – but the day of the traditional parties from the center of our democracy.”
Deborah Beraba, a 27-year-old law student and young Democrat from the Christian Union, told CNN at the CDU headquarters that the results were “disappointing.”
“We have to consider that we’re going out of 16 with Angela Merkel, whom I’m a huge fan of. I’m really sad that she’s leaving the office,” she said. “We call her Muti (Mom), she knew how to talk to people and have a relationship with people and she did a lot for Germany. This made her so special compared to other politicians. I will also miss her sense of humor.”
Greens want more
Meanwhile, the crowd at the Green Party headquarters in Berlin cheered as the first opinion polls were read.
Later, the party’s preliminary results gave 14.8% of the vote.
“We’ve led a campaign we’ve never seen before in this country – around the clock, until last night, the last second,” said Green Party leader Annalena Barbock, thanking party supporters.
Barbouk attributed her party’s success to young and new voters. “This momentum from the markets, from a lot [people] that joined our party in the past years led to the best historical result.”
But Birbock added that the party “wanted more” and failed to do a better job in part because of mistakes it made while campaigning.
The AfD’s lead candidate for chancellor, Alice Weidel, made a brave face after expected election results showed support for the far-right party fell 2.6% from 2017.
“We’re in double digits, we’ve been able to assert ourselves,” she said, according to Reuters. “This assurance that we will leave Parliament after one legislative term has completely failed and we are very happy,” he added.
Analyst: “a long order” to bring the parties together
The outgoing government remains in power as a proxy government until it is replaced by a new government. After that, Merkel, 67, will step down and the new chancellor will take over.
CNN commentator Dominic Thomas said that even if the final result changes the distribution of votes, the key fact is that “after 16 years in power, nearly 76% of Germans have not voted” for Merkel’s party.
He added that there would be no real chance for the CDU or the SPD to form an alliance.
“If the SPD is leading the way, the only way forward is to talk to three parties that are likely to include the Greens and the FDP. And that’s very difficult trying to get all of those together,” he said.
He added that opinion polls indicate a move toward the center and the center left, reflecting the concerns of younger voters.
“It is clear that the momentum is moving more towards issues of social welfare and green policy,” Thomas said.
CNN’s Friedrich Blitgen, Salma Abdelaziz, Nadine Schmidt and Stephanie Halas report from Berlin, and Laura Smith Spark writes from London. CNN’s Nina Avramova, Claudia Otto, Enki Kapeler, Sebastian Shukla and Aditi Sangal contributed to this report.