Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) have edged into the lead over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in national elections, according to projected results, as its leader Olaf Scholz claimed a “clear mandate” for the party to form the government for the first time since 2005.
The SPD was on track for 26.0 percent of the vote, ahead of 24.5 percent for Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservatives, according to a Sunday projection by broadcaster ZDF. The showing was the worst by the CDU in 70 years.
With neither main group commanding a majority, and both reluctant to repeat their awkward “grand coalition” of the past four years, the most likely outcome of the vote is a three-way coalition with either the SPD or the CDU/CSU.
Negotiations could take months, and are likely to involve smaller parties such as the Greens, which looked on course to become the third-largest party in parliament.
“We are ahead in all the surveys now,” Scholz, the SDP’s chancellor candidate, said in a roundtable discussion with other candidates after the vote.
“It is an encouraging message and a clear mandate to make sure that we get a good, pragmatic government for Germany,” he added after earlier addressing jubilant SPD supporters.
The election is the first since Germany was reunified in 1990 that Merkel was not a candidate. She will remain as a caretaker leader until a new government is in place.