Social Democrats narrowly beat Angela Merkel's bloc in German vote
Germany's center-left Social democrats won the biggest share of the vote in a national election Sunday, narrowly beating outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Union bloc in a closely fought race that will determine who succeeds the long-time leader at the helm of Europe's biggest economy.
The social democrat leader Olaf Scholz said he had a clear mandate to form a government, while his conservative rival Armin Laschet remains determined to fight on.
The two parties have governed together for years.
But Mr Scholz says it is time for a new coalition with the Greens and liberals.
Preliminary results gave his party a narrow election win over the conservatives who suffered their worst-ever performance.
It was the tightest race in years, bringing an end to the post-war domination of the two big parties - Mr Scholz's SPD and his rival's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Election officials said early Monday that a count of all 299 constituencies showed the Social Democrats received 25.9% of the vote, ahead of 24.1% for the Union bloc. No winning party in a German national election had previously taken less than 31% of the vote.
The Greens and pro-business FDP attracted the most support from the under-30s, in an election dominated by climate change and by differing proposals on how to tackle it. The Greens made history with almost 15% of the vote, even though it was well short of their ambitions. The pro-business Free Democrats took 11.5% of the vote.
Merkel, who has won plaudits for steering Germany through several major crises, won't be an easy leader to follow. Her successor will have to oversee the country's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which Germany so far has weathered relatively well thanks to large rescue programs.