BERLIN (AP) – After the center-left Social Democrats narrowly defeated outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party in an election, Germany is embarking on a long search for a possible next government that has failed to provide a clear direction for Europe’s largest economy. The new leader.
Leaders of the parties in the newly elected parliament were meeting on Monday to digest a result that saw Merkel’s union bloc fall to its worst result in the national election and hand over the keys of power to two opposition parties.
Social Democrat Olaf Scholes, who led his party out of a protracted recession, and Merkel’s party candidate Armin Lachett, who saw his party’s fortunes fall into a tumultuous campaign, demanded that he lead the next government. Schulz is the outgoing vice-chancellor and finance minister, and the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.
Whichever of them becomes chancellor will do so as his party has won a smaller share of the vote than its predecessors. Who gets the job seems to depend on the decisions of potential junior partners, environmentalist Greens and business-friendly Free Democrats-the parties traditionally belong to rival ideological camps.
“Voters have spoken very clearly,” Scholes said Monday. “They have strengthened three parties – the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Free Democrats – so the visible order that the citizens of this country have given: all three parties should lead the next government.”
The only alternative to a majority in parliament is the repetition of the “grand alliance” of unions and the Social Democrats. That group has ruled Germany for 12 years during Merkel’s one-year rule and has been plagued by frequent feuds, but this time it will be led by Schulz as a junior partner with the Merkel bloc. However, the appetite is low.
Scholes said the union has received messages from citizens that they should no longer be in government, but should go to the opposition.
Merkel’s outgoing government will remain in office until her successor is sworn in, a process that could take weeks or months. Merkel announced in 2018 that she would not seek a fifth term.
The Greens tradition has traditionally leaned towards Social Democrats and Free Democrats in the Union, but did not deny going the other way on Sunday night. Greens has made significant gains to win third place in the election but has fallen far short of its original goal of taking the chancellor, while the Free Democrats have improved somewhat since 2017 with good results.
Julia Reusenbach, a political analyst at Bonn University, told ARD television that a Lachet-led government was “not excluded in principle”, although the Social Democrats would argue that the results show that the Germans want to lead their new administration. “In the end, of course the parties have to agree on the object,” he said.
The final official result gave the Social Democrats 25.7% of the vote and the Union 24.1%. Four years ago, they won 20.5% and 32.9%, respectively. The union – made up of the Christian Democratic Union of Lachett and its Bavarian sister, the Christian Social Union – has never before received less than 1% of the vote in a parliamentary election.
The Greens fell 14.8%, the Free Democrats 11.5% and the right-wing alternative for Germany 10.3% – down from 12.6% in 2017 for the first time to enter parliament. The smallest party in the new parliament is the Left Party, which won only 9.9% of the vote.
The new Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, will have a record 355 lawmakers. Due to a peculiarity of Germany’s electoral system, the size of the parliament changes, which means it can be larger than the minimum of 598 seats.
The Social Democrats won 206 seats, the Union 196, the Greens 118, the Free Democrats 92, the German Alternative 83 and the Left 39. One seat went to Denmark’s minority party, the SSW, for the first time in decades. .
Follow the coverage of the German election AP at https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election
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