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Angela Merkel’s bloc defeated by Social Democrats in German votes

Angela Merkel

Despite receiving its worst-ever performance in a federal election, the Union bloc said it would reach out to smaller parties to discuss forming a government, while Merkel continues to serve as a caretaker until a replacement is sworn in.

In a closely fought national election on Sunday, Germany’s center-left Social Democrats narrowly defeated outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Union party, determining who will succeed the long-time leader at the helm of Europe’s largest economy.

The outcome was “a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good, pragmatic government for Germany,” said Social Democrats’ nominee Olaf Scholz, the outgoing vice-chancellor and finance minister who dragged his party out of a years-long slump.

Despite receiving its worst-ever performance in a federal election, the Union bloc said it would reach out to smaller parties to discuss forming a government, while Merkel continues to serve as a caretaker until a replacement is sworn in.

Early Monday, election officials announced that a count of all 299 constituencies revealed that the Social Democrats earned 25.9% of the vote, compared to 24.1 percent for the Union bloc. In previous German national elections, no victorious party had received less than 31% of the vote.

Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia who outmaneuvered a more popular competitor to win Merkel’s Union bloc candidacy, had failed to rouse the party’s base and had made a number of mistakes. Laschet said of results that looked set to undercut by some measure the Union’s previous worst showing of 31% in 1949,  “Of course, this is a loss of votes that isn’t pretty’’. He further added that with Merkel departing after 16 years in power, ‘‘no one had an incumbent bonus in this election’’.

Both Laschet and Scholz will target the same two parties: the environmentalist Greens, who came in third place with 14.8 percent of the vote, and the pro-business Free Democrats, who received 11.5 percent.

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