German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has won the country’s general election albeit on a reduced vote share, according to projections of results released as polls closed.
Citizens finished voting at 6pm local time (12pm EST) on the vote to decide the composition of the federal parliament, or Bundestag, which will then appoint a chancellor to lead Germany for the next several years.
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.
Her nearest rival Martin Schulz, of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) is projected to secure just 20 percent.
If confirmed, the result would be a clear lead for Merkel but not a storming victory. In 2013, her party took 41.5 percent of the vote. This outcome would also be a slump for the SPD, who won 25.7 percent last time.
Another exit poll by ZDF showed similar results, with Merkel’s party taking 33.5 percent to the SPD’s 21 percent.
While parliament must now elect a chancellor in the coming days, if Merkel’s party does win the largest number of seats it is unlikely that anyone else will take the job.
According to the ARD/Infratest Dimap prediction, the hard-right, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party will become the third largest party, with 13.5 percent of the vote. This will grant the party its first ever seats in the federal parliament since its formation in 2013.
The environmentalist Greens are predicted to take 9.5 percent, the classically liberal, pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) are expected to earn 10.5 percent, and the democratic socialist Left Party are set to secure 9 percent.
The result will be confirmed Sunday night. In general, German exit polls have been fairly accurate in the past. If the projections are borne out, it will usher in fevered coalition negotiations that could last days or weeks, as Merkel seeks to cobble together a governing majority by making deals with other parties.
Her CDU has since 2013 governed in a “grand coalition” with the SPD, but many in the center-left party are unwilling to repeat the exercise, believing that their party needs a spell in opposition in order to rediscover its purpose and present a more…