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SPD narrowly ahead in exit polls for Germany's landmark election but final result uncertain

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Germany’s left-leaning Social Democratic Party (SPD) celebrated a narrow lead in exit polls published after voting ended in Germany’s federal election, but the final result of the closely fought contest remains uncertain.
A Forschungsgruppe Wahlen exit poll for CNN affiliate n-tv suggested the SPD had 25.7% of the vote, with the center-right Christian Democratic Union of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel on 24.6%, followed by the Greens at 14.4%, the FDP at 11.7% and the AfD at 10.7%.
The narrowness of the margins means the German elections are at this point too close to call and predicting the next government — and chancellor — is impossible. A large number of postal ballots also remain to be counted.
Whichever party comes out in front, lengthy coalition negotiations are expected before a government can be formed.
But for the SPD, coming out neck-and-neck with the CDU counts as a significant gain. The left-leaning party took 20.5% of the vote in the country’s last general election, in 2017.
“The voters have decided that the Social Democratic party has gained, and this is a great success,” said SPD leader Olaf Scholz in remarks at his party’s headquarters.
Scholz said the voters wanted him to be next chancellor. “Many citizens have put their crosses next to the SPD because they want there to be a change in government and also because they want the next chancellor of this country to be called Olaf Scholz.”
Germany is the biggest economy in Europe. What if it shifts left?
Germany is the biggest economy in Europe. What if it shifts left?
The 63-year-old politician has served as the vice-chancellor and German finance minister in Merkel’s grand coalition government since 2018, earning him increased visibility as he navigated Germany’s economic response to the pandemic.
“Pragmatism, optimism, unity that is what we will show because that is what counts, and I am sure the citizens will also be happy post election about their decision,” Scholz added.
Loud applause and cheering from jubilant party supporters interrupted him as he spoke.
“Now we will await the final result, but then we will get to work. Thank you!” Scholz said.
Robin Fugmann, 20, an ardent Scholz supporter, told CNN he was delighted by the results so far.
“It is really an amazing result, people believe in Olaf Scholz, people believe that Armin Laschet really cannot lead this country,” he said. “So we really have the mandate to lead a new government — I hope we will do so. And first of all we are going to celebrate because this is a really amazing result.”
Olaf Scholz waves at SPD headquarters after the estimates were broadcast on TV, in Berlin.
Olaf Scholz waves at SPD headquarters after the estimates were broadcast on TV, in Berlin.
Armin Laschet grimaces as he comments on the outcome of the Bundestag elections on Sunday.
Armin Laschet grimaces as he comments on the outcome of the Bundestag elections on Sunday.
CDU leader: Party ‘cannot be content’
By contrast, the mood at CDU headquarters was downcast as the initial exit polls emerged. They suggest the CDU, with its sister party, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, could be looking at the worst result in the alliance’s history — with its share of the vote potentially down more than 8% from 2017.
The party “cannot be content with this result,” CDU leader Armin Laschet told supporters, while noting that the final result remained unclear.
Angela Merkel saw Germans through crisis after crisis. Now they wonder who'll fill the void
Angela Merkel saw Germans through crisis after crisis. Now they wonder who’ll fill the void
“We can foresee that there could be a government with three parties,” he said, as he said the party would “do everything to try to build a coalition.”
Laschet added that the CDU had “got a mandate against a leftist government.”
The party had campaigned on a message of stability for the country after Merkel, seen as a steady pair of hands over the past nearly 16 years, steps down. But it is now coming to terms with what it itself called a bitter night of losses.
“When we look at how we lost compared to the last election, it is bitter for us,” CDU secretary-general Paul Ziemiak told CNN in an interview at party headquarters.
“But it is also clear that after the numbers there is not yet a clear view about who is ahead and exactly how,” he said.
“The question is, who can form a stable government, form a coalition for the future, for this country? We have many issues to tackle — climate protection, innovation — but we also have to ensure stability and social security, which I believe a coalition of the CDU/CSU, the Greens and the FDP could do well, and that is what we will be talking about over the next few days.”
The CDU’s Peter Altmaier, who has been serving as the federal Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy, told CNN that the election result was “in no way a landslide victory for the opposition parties” and showed “a lot of confidence” in the CDU to govern.
Reflecting on the election, he added: “The clear message to all the people around the globe is that democracy in Germany is quite stable, this was not the day of extremist parties — not from the left, not from the right — it was the day of the conventional parties from the center of our democracy.”
Deborah Piraba, a 27-year-old law student and Young Christian Union Democrat, told CNN at the CDU headquarters that the results were “disappointing” but that nothing was lost yet.
“We have to consider that we are coming out of 16 years with Angela Merkel, whom I am a big fan of. I am already sad she is leaving the office,” she said. “We call her Mutti (Mom), she knew how to talk to people and has the connection with people and she has done so much for Germany. This made her so special comparing her with other politicians. I will also miss her sense of humor.”

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