BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged the clear winner of Sunday’s election after her conservative political bloc surged to its best result in 20 years, giving her a strong hand in likely talks on forming a new grand coalition of the nation’s biggest parties.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU) associate party won about 42 per cent of the vote.
"It’s a super result," Merkel told supporters at CDU headquarters in Berlin to loud applause and chants of "Angie, Angie."
Pilloried in nations at the center of the eurozone debt crisis, Merkel is at the peak of her power as she heads into a third term as head of Europe’s biggest economy.
In addition to overseeing a rebound in Germany’s economy, Merkel has won praise from German voters for what they see as her deft handling of the financial crisis, with Sunday’s result placing her party within reach of an absolute majority for the first time in about five decades.
But her triumph came at a cost for her current coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrat Party (FDP), which suffered a major political debacle with a 9.9-percentage-point swing, which is likely to result in the party being bundled out of Parliament for the first time in its 65-year history.
"That is the worst result we have had ever," said Rainer Bruederle, the party’s prime candidate. "It’s not the end of the party. It will be harder, but the work will go on."
The FDP managed to win just 4.7 per cent of the vote, below the 5 per cent that parties need to gain representation in the lower house of Parliament, the Bundestag.
The likely end of Merkel’s current CDU-FDP coalition had sparked speculation about the shape of her new government. Sunday’s results indicate Merkel will turn to the opposition Social Democrats (SDP) to form a new grand coalition.
But Merkel refused to be drawn on her plans for a new government following the collapse of the FDP, which has already crashed out of eight state parliaments since it joined Merkel’s coalition in 2009.
Speaking in a televised panel discussion, Merkel said she expected to be negotiating with the SPD to forge a new coalition government to rule Germany.
She also said it was "obvious" she would not attempt to rule with a minority government.