Social Democrats beat Merkel's party in tight German election

Social Democrats beat Merkel's party in tight German election
© © Getty Images

Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) won a narrow victory in Sunday’s general election, topping the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the race to replace her after she stepped down following 16 years in power. 

It was the worst ever showing for the CDU. However, the slim margin of 1.6 percentage points separating the top two parties means that both could potentially form a ruling coalition and it could take weeks or months of horse trading before a new government takes shape. 

Exit polls projected a nail-biter between the CDU and SPD, confirmed by official results released after 4 a.m. in Germany showing the SPD winning by 1.6 percentage points, 25.7 percent against 24.6 percent of the vote, according to The New York Times


The chancellor candidates for both parties projected confidence speaking to their supporters soon after polls closed in the evening. 

“People checked the box for the S.P.D. because they want there to be a change of government in this country and because they want the next chancellor to be called Olaf Scholz,” said Scholz, the Social Democrats’ candidate, according to The New York Times. 

Amin Laschet, the CDU candidate, said in the evening that the outcome was unclear, but vowed to attempt to form a government even if the party was the runner-up. 

“For this reason, we will do everything in our power to build a government led by the conservatives because Germany needs a future coalition that will modernize our country,” Laschet told the crowd, according to The New York Times. 

Germany’s Green Party had its best performance ever, though it still trailed the SPD and CDU by a fairly wide margin. The Greens, along with the business-friendly Free Democrats, which finished fourth, will figure heavily into whatever coalition is formed in the weeks ahead. 

Merkel will stay on in a caretaker role until a new government is formed.