The Latest: Social Democrats beat Merkel bloc in German vote

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Olaf Scholz, top candidate for chancellor of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) addresses his supporters after German parliament election at the party's headquarters in Berlin, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

The latest on Germany's general election on Sunday:

The center-left Social Democrats have won the biggest share of the vote in Germany’s national election, beating outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Union bloc in a closely fought race.

Election officials said early Monday that a count of all 299 constituencies showed the Social Democrats won 25.9% of the vote, ahead of 24.1% for the Union bloc.

The environmentalist Greens came third with 14.8% followed by the pro-business Free Democrats with 11.5%. The two parties have already signaled that they are willing to discuss forging a three-way alliance with either of their two bigger rivals to form a government.

The far-right Alternative for Germany came fourth in Sunday’s vote with 10.3%, while the Left party took 4.9%.

For the first time since 1949, the Danish minority party SSW was set to win a seat in parliament, officials said.


BERLIN — Germany's Left party has scraped into parliament, despite failing to meet the required 5% threshold.

The Left, which is partly rooted in the communist party that ruled East Germany for decades, managed to win three constituencies outright in Sunday's election.

Had it failed to win those constituencies it would likely have been kicked out of the Bundestag, as it is currently projected to receive only 4.8% of the vote.

Another party, the South Schleswig Voters’ Association, looks set to win its first seat in parliament since 1949, German public broadcaster ARD reports.

Election officials said that the party is exempt from the 5% rule because it represents a national minority group, the Danes in northern Germany.


BERLIN — Voters in the German capital have backed a proposal for the Berlin regional government to take over nearly 250,000 apartments worth billions from corporate owners to curb rising rents.

A nearly complete count of Sunday's referendum showed 56.4% of voters in favor of the measure, and 39% opposed.

The non-binding referendum forces the Berlin government to consider consider expropriating big landlords in a radical move to cool one of Germany’s hottest real estate markets, where rents have become unaffordable for many residents in recent years.

Also Sunday, the center-left Social Democrats appeared to have defended their hold of the mayoral post in the capital.

Initial projections indicated that the Greens had won, but subsequent counts showed them falling behind with 18.8% of the vote compared to the Social Democrats' 21.4%.

In a second regional election held in parallel to the national vote Sunday, the Social Democrats were set for a strong win in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. The party was projected to get 39.6% of the vote, ahead of the far-right Alternative for Germany with 16.7%. Exit polls showed the Social Democrats’ current coalition partners, the Union bloc, coming third in the state with 13.3%.


BERLIN — Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's parliament seat has gone to a candidate from the rival Social Democrats for the first time since 1990.

Merkel won the country's most northeasterly constituency in the first free elections after German reunification, and then defended the seat in seven subsequent elections.

The long-time leader announced in 2018 that she would not run for office again.

Nationwide in Sunday's elections, Merkel's Union bloc saw its worst result since 1949, coming second behind the center-left Social Democrats. The latest projections give it 24.1% of the vote, a drop of almost 9 percentage points from 2017.


BERLIN — The far-right Alternative for Germany has come out top in the eastern states of Thuringia and Saxony.

The party, which is under scrutiny from Germany's domestic intelligence agency due to its extremist links, received 24.6% of the vote in Saxony and 24% in Thuringia.

It also won 17 constituencies in the two states and neighboring Saxony-Anhalt.

The party's nationwide share of the vote stood at 10.5%, down 2 percentage points compared to 2017, when it first entered parliament.


BERLIN — The candidate for German chancellor of the center-left Social Democratic party has defeated the Greens' chancellor candidate in the contest to represent Potsdam outside Berlin.

Social Democrat Olof Scholz won the seat with 34% of the votes Sunday, while Green candidate Annalena Baerbock got 18.8%, according the German news agency dpa. However, Baerbock will still make it into the German parliament via the Green’s party list.

Both the Social Democrats and the Greens made gains in the parliamentary elections, but the Greens had hoped for better results.

Projections from public television, based on exit polls and early vote counting, put voters’ support at around 26% for the Social Democrats and about 14% for the Greens.


BERLIN — The mood was subdued at the headquarters of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union as the building began to empty following the party's poor showing in the election.

One of the few people remaining at the headquarters on Sunday was 34 year-old Salahdin Koban, a party member from Berlin.

Trying to explain the CDU’s losses, Koban said too many mistakes had been made during the campaign by candidate Armin Laschet.

He also said that in general, it was hard for anyone to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor.

Merkel announced in 2018, that she would not run again in this election. Koban called Merkel ‘simply an icon" and for anyone “to follow in her footsteps is difficult."


BERLIN — The far-right Alternative for Germany party is projected to lose support in this year’s national election relative to the poll four years ago.

Projections based on exit polls and partial vote counts on Sunday showed the party getting less than 11%, down from 12.6% in 2017.

The party, known by its German acronym AfD, failed to get its core issue — migration — onto the campaign agenda this year.

Despite the projected outcome, party co-leader Tino Chrupalla said he was “very satisfied” by the result and welcomed the heavy losses for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc.

AfD said four years ago that it would “hunt” Merkel who said in 2018 that she would not run for a fifth term. Other parties have ruled out any cooperation with AfD.


BERLIN— Social Democrats supporters waved the party’s red flags, broke into chants and burst into long party candidate Olaf Scholz walked onto the stage at the party’s headquarters in Berlin.

Scholz thanked the crowd, voters and campaigners across the country. saying on Sunday that the party managed to pick up vote in three separate elections - nationally, in Berlin and in the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state elections.

Michael Mueller, the outgoing mayor of Berlin who ran for a seat in the country’s national parliament, said as he stood in the crowd: “I couldn’t be happier tonight.”


BERLIN - The candidate from outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc says the party will do “everything we can” to form a new government despite posting what's expected to be its worst election result in Germany's post-World War II era.

Armin Laschet said on Sunday that “we can’t be satisfied with the result” of the exit polls. He said that “the result puts Germany, the Union, all democratic parties before big challenges.”

Laschet said Germany will likely have its first national government composed of three parties. He said that “we will do everything we can to form a government under the Union’s leadership, because Germany now needs a coalition for the future that modernizes our country.”

Laschet was surrounded by his party’s top brass, including Merkel, as he spoke at its headquarters in Berlin.


BERLIN - The two parties that exit polls put in third and fourth place in Germany’s general election now appear to play the role of kingmaker in determining the composition of the next ruling coalition and the country’s next chancellor.

The polls indicated the environmentalist Greens won about 15 percent, their strongest showing ever, but below expectations that had been fueled by a surge in popularity early in the campaign.

The Greens’ secretary general, Michael Kellner, said: “We gained significantly, but I find it difficult to really enjoy it because expectations were clearly higher."

Kellner noted that the Greens have said they prefer a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats but added that “we are ready to speak with all democratic parties to see what’s possible.”

Exit polls show the pro-business Free Democrats to be in fourth with 11%-12%. During the campaign, they had said they preferred a coalition with the center-right Union bloc which suffered a sharp decline in support. Free Democrats’ Secretary General Volker Wissing, said on Sunday that it was too soon to discuss possible coalition partners.


BERLIN - The general secretary of the center-left Social Democrats says he believes his party has been given a mandate to form a ruling coalition, based on exit polls in Germany’s general election.

Lars Klingbeil was speaking moments after the exit polls were published by the two main television channels on Sunday.

In a poll by the ZDF channel, the SPD was slightly ahead of its main rival, the center-right Union bloc, 26% to 24%. In the poll published by the ARD channel, the parties pulled even at 25%.

The polls suggested significant gains for the Social Democrats, compared to its standing earlier this year, and a sharp drop for the Union bloc. Klingbeil says the party now “has the mission to form a coalition,” and for its top candidate, Olaf Scholz to become chancellor.


BERLIN - The general secretary of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc says that early exit polls “hurt” as the party looked at its worst result since 1949.

With different exit polls putting the Union bloc neck-and-neck or slightly below the center-left Social Democrats, Paul Ziemiak said on Sunday that his party nevertheless wants to “serve this country” and will consider a coalition with the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.

Exit polls by public broadcasters ARD and ZDF show the Union bloc down 8-9% compared to 2017, after four elections in which the party won under Merkel. Her successor, Armin Laschet, had low personal approval ratings and some in the party had questioned whether he was the right candidate for chancellorship.

Ziemiak said that his party was looking at “bitter losses” that would need to be analyzed.


BERLIN - Hundreds of people burst out in spontaneous chants of “Olaf, Olaf"- the first name of the Social Democrats’ candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz - when exit poll results flashed acroos TV screens at the party's Berlin headquarters.

A cheering Renée Röske from Cologne said she had been telling everyone that Scholz was the “best candidate" and that it's now reflected in the exit polls.

The 42 year-old Röske said she noticed over the summer that once people realized that Merkel isn't running again, they became more interested in politics and started to inform themselves about the three main candidates.

She said people noticed that Scholz “did the right things" during the pandemic and “that’s why the SPD in now leading, because Scholz is good."


BERLIN - Germany’s election authority is making clear that center-right chancellor candidate Armin Laschet’s votes will be valid although they could be seen Sunday as he put his ballot paper into the ballot box.

German election rules state that ballot papers should be folded in such a way that it’s not possible to see how the person voted. It wasn’t immediately clear whether election officials in Laschet’s constituency in Aachen had noticed that his paper was folded wrongly, a moment that was caught by cameras.

Laschet is from outgoing German leader Angela Merkel’s Union bloc.

Without explicitly naming Laschet, the election authority tweeted that “a nationally known politician voted for his own party, as expected.” It said that couldn’t be seen as an attempt to influence voters.

It said if the ballot paper is folded wrongly, election officials are supposed to issue a new ballot paper. But if the wrongly folded ballot gets into the ballot box, it can no longer be screened out and is valid. Laschet’s paper went into the ballot box.


BERLIN — The environmentalist Greens’ candidate to be the next German chancellor says she’s hoping for “a few more votes” than pre-election polls showed her party getting.

Annalena Baerbock is the party’s first candidate for chancellor. It led in polls after she was nominated in the spring but recent surveys have shown it in third place, several points behind the center-left Social Democrats and outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc.

Baerbock said as she voted Sunday in Potsdam, just outside Berlin, that “we are of course hoping for a few more votes, with a view to the poll results, so that we can achieve a real new departure in this country.”

Even if the Greens aren’t in a position to provide Germany’s next leader, the party could be crucial to putting together a new coalition after the election. Polls point to a much better showing than the 8.9% of the vote it won in 2017.


BERLIN — Center-right candidate Armin Laschet’s votes were visible as he put his ballot paper into the ballot box -- something that is supposed to be a no-no under German election law.

Election rules state that ballot papers should be folded in such a way that it’s not possible to see how the person voted.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether election officials in Laschet’s constituency in Aachen had noticed that his paper was folded wrongly on Sunday, a moment that was caught by cameras, or whether the faux pas would have any consequences.

Laschet is the candidate of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc to succeed Germany’s longtime leader. Polls show his party neck-and-neck with the center-left Social Democrats after a bumpy campaign.

Under Germany’s complex electoral system, every voter gets two votes -- one for a directly elected lawmaker and the other for a party list.


BERLIN — Armin Laschet, the candidate of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Union bloc to become Germany’s new leader, says the election result “will come down to every vote.”

Recent polls point to a very close race between Laschet’s center-right Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats, with the Greens trailing in third.

Laschet said as he voted Sunday in Aachen, on Germany’s western border, that the election “will decide on Germany’s direction in the coming years, and so it will come down to every vote.”

His Social Democrat rival, Olaf Scholz, said after he voted in Potsdam, just outside Berlin, that he hopes voters “will make possible ... a very strong result for the Social Democrats, and that citizens will give me the mandate to become the next chancellor of Germany.”

Green candidate Annalena Baerbock is expected to vote in Potsdam later Sunday. Merkel’s spokesman has said that the outgoing leader was casting a postal ballot -- as many Germans are expected to in this election.


BERLIN — Voters are delivering a mixed verdict on the era of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel as they choose a new German parliament, and some are struggling with the choice of potential new leaders.

Polls opened Sunday after a rollercoaster campaign. Recent surveys point to a very close race between Merkel’s center-right Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats, with the Greens trailing in third.

In Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, a traditional leftwing stronghold, Jan Kemper, a 41-year-old manager at an online bank, said the climate crisis and Germany’s slow pace of digitalization were among his main concerns.

He praised Merkel’s crisis management style but said that key issues were left unattended.

“This election is extremely important,” he said. “Previously, elections set the course for the next two to four years. Now decisions have to be made that will affect the next generations.”

In Berlin’s Mitte district, 48-year-old social worker Wiebke Bergmann said that “this election is really special, I think, because Angela Merkel is not running again.”

She said: “I really thought hard about which candidate I want as next chancellor — until this morning I hadn’t made up my mind. None of the three really convinced me.”