German election: Social Democrats secure win over Angela Merkel's Union bloc

27 September 2021, 08:12

The Social Democrats saw a narrow win over the Union bloc
The Social Democrats saw a narrow win over the Union bloc. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Centre-left Social Democrats in Germany have narrowly won the biggest share of votes in the national election, beating Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right Union bloc.

A count of all 299 constituencies in Germany showed that the Social Democrats won 25.9 per cent of the vote, ahead of 24.1 per cent for the Union bloc, officials said early on Monday.

It is the first time a winning party in a German national election has taken less than 31 per cent of the vote.

However, candidate Olaf Scholz, who is also the outgoing vice chancellor and finance minister, said the outcome was "a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good, pragmatic government for Germany".

Meanwhile Angela Merkel's Union bloc saw its worst result in a federal contest since 1949. It said it would reach out to smaller parties to discuss forming a government, while Ms Merkel stayed on in a caretaker role until a successor was sworn in.

Staff members counted votes into the early hours of Monday.
Staff members counted votes into the early hours of Monday. Picture: Alamy

Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state who secured nomination of the Union bloc, had struggled to motivate the party's base and suffered a series of missteps.

"Of course, this is a loss of votes that isn't pretty," Mr Laschet said of the results.

But he added that with Ms Merkel leaving after 16 years in power, "no one had an incumbent bonus in this election".

Mr Laschet told supporters 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 modernises our country".

Both the Social Democrats and Union bloc are expected to try and win over the environmentalist Greens moving forward, with them coming third with 14.8 per cent of the vote, as well as the pro-business Free Democrats, who took 11.5 per cent.

The Greens traditionally lean toward the Social Democrats and the Free Democrats toward the Union, but neither have ruled out going the other way.

The other option is a repeat of the outgoing "grand coalition" of the Union and Social Democrats that has run Germany for 12 of Ms Merkel's 16 years in power.

However, there is little appeal for that after years of government squabbling.

Mr Laschet said: "Everyone thinks that ... this 'grand coalition' isn't promising for the future, regardless of who is No 1 and No 2. We need a real new beginning."

Due to Germany's complicated electoral system, a full breakdown of the result by seats in parliament is still pending.