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The SPD's Olaf Scholz has said his party will likely enter coalition talks with the Greens and the FDP. But with the conservatives also trying to form a government, Merkel's successor is still unclear.
This concludes the live updates for the moment.
Two senior German conservatives, one from the outgoing Cabinet and another in Bavaria's Cabinet with the CSU, have issued damning verdicts on their chancellor candidate Armin Laschet in the Tuesday edition of the Rheinische Post newspaper.
Both made no secret of the fact that they would have preferred Bavaria's Markus Söder to run in Laschet's place, arguing that he would have fared better.
Peter Altmaier, a close ally of Angela Merkel, told the paper that the party needed to "hear the signal of the voters" and reorganize its leadership. He also alluded to his earlier support for Söder over Laschet as candidate.
"I made my position clear then, both within the party and personally with Armin Laschet. It's not pleasant, when reality even exceeds your own personal fears."
Meanwhile, a more direct ally in Söder's Cabinet in Bavaria, Albert Füracker, said any blame for the conservatives' poor showing lay with Laschet. He cited the CDU's struggles even in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state Laschet governs.
"The CDU/CSU lost 50 seats in parliament, the CDU lost 49 of those," Füracker said. "In Bavaria itself, I'm sure that we would have won more than 40% support with Söder as chancellor candidate." The CSU scored 31.7% support in Bavaria, its worst tally in decades, but also the CDU/CSU's strongest showing in any state.
Ulrike Franke, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told DW that world shouldn't "be alarmed" at the possibility of an about-face in German foreign policy under whichever governing coalition ends up taking shape.
Under coalitions that are likely to form under the SPD or CDU "there is a certain level of foreign policy continuity that can be expected," Franke said.
"For the transatlantic alliance, and for Europe, there are some differences between the the coalitions that maybe we can get into, but no reason to be alarmed," she added.
Franke also said that she thought an SPD-led coalition could prove "slightly less reliable" for NATO partners like the US than a CDU-led one, especially on contentious issues like Germany's continued participation in NATO's nuclear-sharing program or the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defense each year.
Katalin Cseh, a Hungarian member of European Parliament who belongs to the opposition Momentum Party, called for the next German government to be tougher on "democratic backsliding" in the EU.
"I believe that the era of appeasing autocrats and wannabe dictators should be over," she told DW. She said the strong results by the Greens and FDP were a clear message to authoritarian leaders in the region.
"These are the parties who were very firm in their stance for the rule of law, for a more democratic Europe. And I believe that these priorities should be carried in the new coalition very strongly as well," she added.
The US has vowed close cooperation with Germany after the election.
"We are waiting for the outcome of the negotiations for the formation of the next German government," Deputy State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter said during a press briefing on Monday. "We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Germany on many key issues of mutual interest."
Here's a look at how leaders around the world reacted to the election.
Hessen State Premier and Christian Democrat Volker Bouffier said his party was not entitled to participate in a coalition government after finishing second place behind the SPD.
"It was a defeat," Bouffier said, while calling the election a "bitter day" for the party. "We are not entitled to government responsibility."
Bouffier is a strong supporter of CDU chancellor candidate Armin Laschet. The CDU still has a potential to lead or participate in the next government, possibly as coalition partners with the FDP and Greens.
Need a refresher on the outcome of Germany's historic election?
Here's a look at the most important facts and figures from election night and some of the most important things you need to know as the Merkel era comes to an end.
Norbert Röttgen, a member of the CDU and chair of the Bundestag's Committee on Foreign Affairs, told DW that his party shares similar views with the FDP and Greens on global challenges. The CDU is looking to possibly form a coalition government with those two parties.
"There is a high consensus between the CDU, the Liberals and the Greens, particularly when it comes to how to deal with Russia, how to deal with China, that we have to shift to the new role China is practicing in international relations, the bullying policy in the region," he said Monday. "So a more robust foreign policy against the authoritarian regimes and countries in Russia, in China and elsewhere."
He claimed there was a "significant difference" with the SPD, which had "without any doubt turned to the left wing of foreign policy and security policy."
In regards to coalition negotiations, he said "if the CDU were to continue in government with new coalition partners, it would also be an entirely positive democratic process."
Leading business groups have urged politicians to move quickly with forming a new government
Siegfried Russwurm, the president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), called on leaders to take responsibility and refrain from "tactical maneuvers." He said administrative reform and other measures are needed to tackle challenges such as climate change, digitalization and geopolitical crises.
Hans Peter Wollseifer, the president of the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts, said the only real outcome of the election is there are multiple coalition combinations. He warned against lengthy negotiations for a new coalition government, as that could stall the nation's economic recovery.
Here's a look at how other business leaders reacted to the results.
Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, vice president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told DW a new government in Germany could mean a few "smaller to medium-sized changes" to Germany’s foreign policy.
This would be "especially on China policy, depending on what type of coalition it is, on defense spending and NATO," he said. He added that he did not expect "architectural changes." Despite the Greens' hawkishness on China and Russia during the election campaign, he said they were "hesitant to back up these claims with hard power."
He said moderate increases in defense spending would likely continue and "that will not please the Americans because we're not getting to two percent in a couple of years," referring to the 2% of GDP that the US would like European NATO members to contribute towards defense spending.
On China, Kleine-Brockhoff said Xi Jinping's assertiveness and the departure of Angela Merkel would both shape Germany's attitude in the future. Merkel "was a hold-out of an old China policy that is still built on relative openness towards China, China trade and trying not to get into the thick of a confrontational attitude towards China."
Merkel was "pushing back against all those who tried to take a more distant, even a more hawkish approach on China." Kleine-Brockhoff noted that she was going, meaning there could be "subtle changes or a little bit of a step dance in China policy going forward."
Following Sunday's election, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-free market FDP are likely to join a three-party coalition government as kingmakers. DW explores whether the parties share any ground when it comes to political policies.
Around 51% of center-right Christian Democrat (CDU) voters think that party leader Armin Laschet should step down, according to a survey. Overall, 70% of those taking part in the survey were in favor of him resigning from his party post, according to a poll conducted for Germany's Funke Media Group.
Many viewed Armin Laschet as the likely successor chancellor to Angela Merkel after being chosen as leader of the CDU in April this year. But a series of blunders since taking over the top position saw his party take a tumble in the ratings. His party came second in Sunday's general election, with 24.1%. This was over 8% down on the previous election and their worst result since World War II.
Helge Lindh, a member of parliament with the Social Democrats (SPD), has told DW that the CDU/CSU have "lacked humility" in the wake of yesterday's result as "it is evident they are the losers of this vote."
"But they are significantly immodest and there is a lack of backbone," he continued.
"It's the responsibility of the Liberals [FDP] and the Green Party if they want a real future coalition or if they intend to build a coalition of the past."
"Let's start the talks, let's start the negotiations, and not say, what we not want to do, but let's say what we can do together."
The environmentalist Greens are set to be kingmakers in coalition talks following the German election, alongside the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) after coming third and fourth in Sunday's elections, preliminary results show.
While the parties have committed to exploratory talks, the pair are at odds on key issues. Lawmakers from both parties talked to DW about possible challenges that lie ahead.
Franziska Brantner (Greens) told DW that she expected negotiations to be "tough."
"We have big differences with the liberals [FDP] who want to give more money to the rich defacto and don't really want to have a climate protection," Brantner said.
Climate goals, the modernization of the economy, social cohesion and European solidarity were key issues for the Greens, Brantner told DW, and could represent sticking points.
Despite differences, the Greens were ready to enter coalition talks "seriously and constructively."
Lukas Köhler, the FDP parliamentary spokesperson on climate described areas where he thought his party could have some overlap with the Greens: "We Germans, we do think a lot about costs, but we also think about the what it would cost not to act."
While the FDP has traditionally backed Germany's car manufacturing sector, he said "it's not ingrained in our identity to use oil for that." He said the synthetic fuels and electric car industry were areas that could combine the FDP's pro-business approach with the Greens' environmentalist outlook.
Svenja Krauss, a political scientist and researcher at the University of Vienna told DW there was a chance that "this year the negotiations to form a government will be even more difficult compared to last time."
"I think it's quite likely that Merkel will still be the acting chancellor at Christmas," Krauss added. Both center-left SPD leader Olaf Scholz and conservative CDU leader Armin Laschet said they hoped to have coalition talks wrapped up by the end of the year.
According to Krauss, the SPD had won an "even stronger mandate" to form a government than the CDU/CSU. "[Scholz] has a very clear advantage here with regards to forming a coalition government — with regard to also being used to talk to the different parties at the national level," Krauss told DW.
After 2017's September elections, it took until March 2018 to form a coalition government. However, there was somewhat less time pressure given that it was clear in any constellation that the incumbent Angela Merkel would remain as chancellor.
The FDP have taken a step closer to opening coalition talks by saying they are ready to meet with the Greens.
"The parties who wanted a change in recent years were the Green party and the FDP," said FDP leader Christian Lindner. "This is why it makes sense for these two parties to meet and talk."
"We have also decided we are open to accept offers from the CDU/CSU or the SDP."
FDP parliamentary executive director Florian Toncar told DW that "no one will be chancellor without convincing FDP and Greens to join this coalition."
But despite the uncertainty, there is "a clear mandate for change," he said.
"We need fundamental change and whoever will form a coalition in the end, it will be a coalition of reform and modernization."
"We have marked two very important points, which are not negotiable for us. The first one is we need to adhere to the debt brake, which is a part of our constitution, but which may not be amended or put into question in some some way. And the other is we don't want to have a higher tax burden for all the people in Germany."
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bundestag seat has gone to an SPD candidate for the first time in over three decades.
Merkel won Germany's most northeasterly constituency in the first free elections after German reunification in 1990, and then successfully defended the seat in seven subsequent elections.
Twenty-seven-year-old Anna Kassautzki — who was not born when Merkel secured a direct mandate in the electoral district of Vorpommern-Rügen-Vorpommern-Greifswald I — claimed the seat on the Baltic coast with 24.3% of first votes, improving her party's performance by 12.7 percentage points.
Annalena Baerbock congratulated the Social Democrats while also suggesting the Greens still have a significant role to play, despite coming a distant third in the overall vote.
"Now we've got preliminary results and we have to say that we're very happy that we've got 16 direct mandates," Baerbock said. "That wasn't so clear yesterday evening. It's also clear that the SPD is the strongest party, so congratulations to the Social Democrats from us."
"We have a clear mandate from our voters for change in the country," she said, while admitting that the result was not as high as they had hoped.
"The question of carbon neutrality is the major challenge facing us," she stressed.
Baerbock added that she and co-leader Robert Habeck would enter into coalition talks with all parties.
"The election evening has really ushered in a new age in Germany," Habeck said. "What's emerged from the election is not a clear mandate for who should form a government," he added.
Voters have been asked what they prioritized when casting their ballots: the manifesto/direction of their preferred party, the candidate, or a long-term commitment/allegiance.
Some 36% of SPD voters said they casted their ballot the way they did because of the candidate, Olaf Scholz.
This is in comparison with 18% of CDU voters, who seemed to give less importance their party's chancellor candidate choice, Armin Laschet.
Voters for the Greens (82%), Die Linke (77%), FDP (72%), AfD (71%) appeared to prioritize party policy, over the choice of candidate.
Around 30% of CDU voters said they supported their party due to a long-term commitment, in comparison with 15% of SPD voters.
Young people flocked to the FDP and the Greens.
More than a fifth of those casting their ballots for the business-focused party were in the 18-24 age group.
Some 23% of people from the same age group made up all of the Green party's votes.
Just 7% of the AfD's voters were 24 or under.
In terms of geography and how people voted, the SPD dominated the north of Germany while the CDU remained strong in the south.
The Greens won a smattering of seats in the Bundestag across the country, and the AfD were the most popular party in the eastern states of Saxony and Thuringia after the CDU slumped there.
Two transgender women from the Green Party are set to join the German parliament.
Tessa Ganserer, 44, of Nuremberg in southeastern Bavaria and Nyke Slawik, 27, of North Rhine-Westphalia, won seats in the Bundestag.
Ganserer told Reuters: "It is a historic victory for the Greens, but also for the trans-emancipatory movement and for the entire queer community."
The leader of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Armin Laschet, said that Sunday's election was "not one we can be happy with," although he celebrated the fact that "we were able to prevent a left wing coalition."
"Of course I know that I have a personal share of responsibility in this result," he said referring to the CDU's worst result since 1945.
"Whether or not we end up being in opposition or taking on government responsibility, we have to carry out a renewal of the Christian Democratic Union," Laschet said.
Germany is facing "difficult challenges" following the inconclusive election results. "No party has emerged from this election with a very clear mandate to form a government," he said.
"Having exploratory talks with all potential partners is necessary," he said, stressing that they will have to work to find common ground between three different parties.
"I believe that we could indeed contribute to a coalition of the CDU, the Green party and the FDP," he said, stressing the term "sustainability" in terms of the environment and the economy. The conservative leader said his party agreed with the FDP on the importance of returning to economic growth and with the Greens on reducing C02 emissions.
The Kremlin said there is hope for "continuity" and "dialogue" with Germany after looking at the results from yesterday's federal election. Russia did not comment on who it hopes would prefer to lead the future German government, but said "as far as we understand, the process of creating a coalition will be lengthy and complicated."
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he anticipates greater cooperation with Germany after SPD leads in the German elections.
France's European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said of the results on France 2 television: "I would say that, on a certain level, the Germans have voted for Angela Merkel."
Returning from Camp David Sunday evening, Biden responded: "They're solid," when told SPD was leading in the German elections.
Markus Söder from the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Laschet's Christian Democrats (CDU), discussed the failures of the conservative union in Sunday's election.
"Yesterday's result is disappointing for the whole Union, and yes it was a defeat, that's true for the CDU and it's true for the CSU," the state premier for Bavaria said.
He went on to celebrate the Bavarian party's success in direct constituencies, saying: "We had the best result in Germany, winning 45 out of 46 direct constituency votes." He added that this was "particularly noteworthy" as the CDU lost a lot of its directly elected seats.
Söder ran through the areas where the conservatives lost, namely in eastern Germany, among young voters and among women. He added that there had been a clear tendency for change.
"We now have to seriously deal with all of this. Working through it doesn't mean talking ourselves to death but it does mean being honest with ourselves, with an honest analysis," he said.
The pro-free market FDP gave a press conference on Monday afternoon, clearly flush with having bounced back so significantly after nearly dropping out of the Bundestag two elections ago. "We have received a mandate to form a government with other parties," they declared.
Leader Christian Lindner highlighted his party’s somewhat tenuous commonalities with the environmental and social justice-focused Green party, as it looked increasingly likely that the two parties would get to decide whether to form an alliance with the CDU or SPD.
The Free Democratic Party (FDP) giving a statement on its historic results in Sunday's election. The pro-free market party kept their double digit support from voters and may now become kingmakers in a possible coalition with the center-left SPD or center-right CDU.
Leader Christian Lindner had shown an interest in talking to the other kingmaker party, the Greens, before opening coalition talks with the bigger parties. DW has the live comments. You can watch it live on this page, or on your TV. It is also available live on YouTube.
In his first press conference since his party emerged as frontrunner, Olaf Scholz was asked by a British journalist whether he would consider sending drivers to help with the UK's truck driver shortage.
"The free movement of labor is part of the European Union and we worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union," the SPD chancellor candidate responded.
He went on to add that the shortage in the UK "might have something to do with the question of wages. Being a trucker is something that many people like to be, and you find somehow that there are not enough of them, this has something to do with working conditions."
He also stressed the importance of keeping good relations between Germany and the UK.
"What is clear for us is that we can derive a mandate to build a government," Olaf Scholz told reporters.
He laid out his preferred choice for a possible governing coalition. "The Green party and FDP won a considerable increase in votes, and this is why we will be trying to enter into coalitions with these parties."
"We want to enter into a conversation with the other parties to form a government as quickly as possible," he added.
"A social, environmental, liberal coalition does have a past here in Germany, there's a tradition we can build on and it's what we need to do if we can tackle the challenges of the future," the possible future chancellor of Germany said.
Scholz then promised that Germany would have a new government before Christmas, one day after calling such a promise "absurd". In 2017, the country went without a government for nearly six months as negotiations dragged on.
Green Party co-leader Robert Habeck told Deutschlandfunk radio that "the SPD is, from what we've seen so far, the more progressive party." The two could enter into a coalition, he said, but mathematically that would require a third party to join in order to create a majority. Habeck gave the example the traditionally yellow-colored pro-business FDP.
"But a [so-called] 'traffic light' coalition is not red and green with a bit of yellow speckled on it," Habeck added, referring to the possible coalition between the SPD, whos traditional color is red, the Greens and the FDP.
He went on to set out minimum requirements for any possible coalition the Greens might join. "Every government must take measures against climate change," he said, as well as adhere to the 2014 Paris climate agreement and tackle social inequality in Germany.
While the Greens are likely to become partners in Germany's next government, their results fell shy of what chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock had hoped for
The socialist Left party took stock on Monday morning after tumbling in the polls and only getting seats in the Bundestag by the skin of its teeth.
Susanne Hennig-Wellsow, one of the two co-leaders of the Left party, said in a press conference that the reasons for the Left's defeat were so "complex" that she couldn't get into them during the short presser.
She added that despite the many problems facing Germany, "there was no change," to be seen after the result of Sunday's vote.
Co-chair Janine Wissler called the result "a heavy blow" and said that the Left should "use the next four years" to "rebuild the party and deal with structural problems."
Patrick Sensburg, a member of parliament with the Christian Democrats (CDU), said that squabbles inside the party had kept their candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet, from a clear victor. He particularly highlighted disputes between the CDU and its Bavarian sister party the CSU, whose leader Markus Söder had challenged Laschet for leadership of the bloc.
"We had the whole period, fights between our party coalition about the CDU and the CSU — and in the end, we don't seem to have a team, we are fighting inside, and that's one reason of the not satisfying result of this election," Sensburg told DW in an interview.
However, Sensburg downplayed the idea that the CDU was out of the running: "I think it's normal that also a party who [came] in second place can form a coalition […] The question is, can it be a strong coalition?"
"With the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP), we have lots of issues in common," he added, referencing the third and fourth-place finishers whose alliances are likely to be crucial in coalition talks.
Michaela Küfner, DW's chief political editor reported from the CDU headquarters regarding Armin Laschet's attempts to form a coalition despite not gaining the most votes.
"Laschet clearly had the strategy to put a very vague offer on the table to the two potential kingmakers, the Greens the Free Democrats, that in a coalition led by him, he would want them to make sure that they deliver to their voters what they had promised as well," Küfner said.
"That's a very generous offer to put on the table, and that underlines the will to cling to power here at the CDU headquarters," she added, saying that there was clearly an attempt to keep up the appearance of standing behind Laschet "despite the fact that one can sense inner-party criticism bubbling beneath the surface."
To kick off the morning's flurry of closed-door discussions and press statements, the SPD leadership took a victory lap first thing in the morning by thanking voters and making it clear that no matter what the CDU claims, they do not have a mandate to form a government.
"The CDU got the the message from voters that they should not be in government," Social Democrat leader and chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz said, referring to the conservatives' historic losses.
"They told us that we should form the government, they strengthened three parties, the SPD, the Greens and the FPD. These parties should lead the next government."
He added that the "three huge challenges" facing his potential future administration are "to create more respect in our society, to modernize our industry in our country and to stop and slow down man made climate change," as well as strengthening the European Union.
Germany is waking up after an uncertain election night. While the preliminary results are now in, it's still not yet clear who will be filling Angela Merkel's shoes. One thing, however, is certain — tough coalition talks are ahead, and they all start today.
The top brass for all parties in the Bundestag will be meeting today, with press conferences expected throughout the morning and early afternoon. The main topic of discussion today among the strongest four parties — the CDU, SPD, Greens, and pro-business FDP — is likely to be their party's role in Germany’s possible future coalition government.
The Left party failed to reach the 5% hurdle which blocks smaller parties from entering the Bundestag. However, they managed to hold onto their seats by passing an alternative hurdle — by winning at least three direct constituency votes. They held onto two constituencies in eastern Berlin and one in the eastern city of Leipzig.
Top candidate Dietmar Bartsch told public broadcaster ARD on Monday morning that the party had to ask itself some "fundamental questions" after Sunday's "bitter defeat."
Despite the SPD's stronger showing, CDU chief Armin Laschet has also indicated his desire to form a government, saying "the voters have given us the job to do. We'll have to find commonalities probably between three political parties."
With the German vote extremely fractured, there could be weeks or even months of messy coalition negotiations ahead. After the last federal election in 2017, it took six months to form a government after the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) walked out of talks with the CDU and the Green Party after a month. This resulted in a second four years of the so-called "grand coalition" of the CDU and SPD.
While another grand coalition of the two biggest parties is mathematically possible, both parties have appeared unenthusiastic about the prospect. The FDP and the Greens have signaled that they see themselves at kingmakers in a possible future government, but would need to hear what the CDU and SPD are offering first.
Norbert Walter-Borjans, co-chair of the SPD, appeared to cast doubt on a possible coalition between his party, the FDP, and the Greens on Monday morning. He told Deutschlandfunk radio that "the FDP wants dramatic tax cuts, they don't want to take out loans but they also want to invest. That's voodoo economics, it doesn't work." He added that he could not forsee that vision coalescing with that of the Greens in particular.
The CDU's vice-chief Julia Klöckner, however, signaled that an alliance with the FDP and the Greens was exactly what her party wanted, saying there were "solid foundations" for such a coalition.
After a long election night, the SPD appeared to have come out ahead of the conservative bloc of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU. With 25.7% percent support, it was the SPD's first victory over the CDU since Merkel took over in 2005.
However, not only was the victory slight — the CDU reached 24.1% — it is a far cry from the results of decades past, when either of Germany's two biggest parties easily captured over 40%.
Despite this, the SPD's Olaf Scholz accepted the result warmly, saying "we have what it takes to govern a country." He promised to take a stronger stance against climate change and to modernize German industry should he become leader.
Nina Haase, DW's political correspondent, pointed out that the center-left party won three elections last night — the parliamentary vote, and the state-level votes in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. "That gave the party a big boost," as they look to form a governing coalition in the Bundestag, she said from SPD headquarters in Berlin.
The SPD will have to look most likely at the neoliberal FDP and environmental Green party for coalition partners. Scholz "will really depend on what the FDP and Greens have to say," Haase said.
Despite falling somewhat in the polls over the summer, the Green Party scored a historically strong 14.8%. Greens candidate Annalena Baerbock welcomed the result as a likely sign they will join the next German government as junior coalition partners.
jsi,es,ab/rs (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)