The preliminary official results released by the federal returning officer early on Monday gave Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), a combined 41.5 percent. That's just short of a majority.
Chancellor Merkel's preferred coalition partners, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), were voted out of the Bundestag in Sunday's national election, having taken just 4.8 percent of the vote. This is short of the 5 percent hurdle required to send lawmakers to the German parliament and it is the first time that the FDP has failed to get elected to the Bundestag since World War II.
The main opposition Social Democrats, led by Merkel's challenger for the chancellery, Peer Steinbrück, finished well behind her conservative bloc, with 25.7 percent.
The far Left party took 8.6 percent, followed by the Green Party, with 8.4 percent.
The euroskeptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party took 4.7 percent, meaning that like the FDP, they fell short of the 5 percent hurdle.
These results are described as preliminary, due to the fact that while they are official, they can still be challenged in court.
New coalition partner required
Several hours before the preliminary official results were released, the chancellor commented on her party’s clear victory in a speech at the CDU’s Berlin headquarters.
"We will do everything we can in the next four years to make them successful ones for Germany," Merkel said, adding that it was too early to comment on possible coalition partners.
"We will talk about this tomorrow when we know the final results, but we can surely celebrate tonight, as we have done a great job."
Based on the preliminary results, the CDU/CSU will have 311 seats in the new Bundestag, five short of the number needed to form a majority.
Throughout the election campaign, the chancellor had stressed that the FDP, with whom she has governed for the past four years, remained her preferred coalition partners. However, with the Free Democrats shut out of the Bundestag, they are no longer an option.
This appears to leave the Social Democrats, with whom she governed in a grand coalition from 2005 to 2009, as the most logical choice.
While refusing to comment on possible coalition partners on Sunday night, Merkel told ARD public television that she intended to seek a "stable majority," something the SPD, with its 192 seats in the new parliament, would certainly be in a position to deliver.
With their 63 seats, the Greens could also help Merkel to an ample majority, and party officals have not ruled out at least talking to the conservatives. At the same time they have expressed skepticism about prospects for finding enough common ground with the CDU/CSU to make a coalition government workable. The Bavaria-based CSU has also categorically ruled out working with the Greens.
While the current opposition of SPD, Greens and the Left party could mathematically form a majority of 319 seats, this is not seen as a realistic possiblilty as the Social Democrats have repeatedly ruled out working with the Left party at the federal level.
All of the parties are to begin examining their options at meetings to be held in their respective national headquarters in Berlin during the course of the day on Monday.
pfd/lw (dpa, Reuters)