German exit poll: Conservatives, social democrats tied in vote

Filed on September 26, 2021
Germany's SPD candidate Olaf Scholz meets with a supporter during his election campaign. — Reuters

Angela Merkel's Social Democrat rivals claim they have a mandate to make Olaf Scholz new chancellor

Germany’s CDU-CSU conservatives and their Social Democrat rivals were tied in Sunday’s national election, an exit poll showed, leaving open which of them will lead the next government as Angela Merkel prepares to stand down after 16 years in power.

The CDU/CSU bloc won 25 per cent of the vote, their weakest result in a post-war federal election and on a par with the centre-left Social Democrat (SPD), the infratest poll for broadcaster ARD showed. Other exit polls showed the SPD marginally ahead.

“That hurts,” CDU secretary-general Paul Ziemiak told ARD after publication of the exit polls.

He expressed disappointment with exit polls showing the conservative alliance in second place with around 24-25 per cent of the vote.

“The losses are bitter compared to the last election” in 2017, when the CDU-CSU scored more than 30 per cent, Paul Ziemiak told reporters.

SPD secretary-general Lars Klingbeil said his party had a mandate to form a coalition after exit polls showed the party neck and neck with the conservative bloc.

“The SPD has the mandate to govern. We want Olaf Scholz to be chancellor,” said Klingbeil shortly after first exit polls. He said the exit polls put the SPD ahead.

Attention will now shift to informal discussions — likely with the Greens, on 15 per cent, and liberal Free Democrats (FDP), on 11 per cent — followed by more formal coalition negotiations which could take months, leaving Merkel in charge in a caretaker role.

After a domestic-focused election campaign, Berlin’s allies in Europe and beyond may have to wait for months before they can see whether the new German government is ready to engage on foreign issues to the extent they would like.

Merkel has been in power since 2005 but plans to step down after the election, making the vote an era-changing event to set the future course of Europe’s largest economy.

The election pitted Armin Laschet of the CDU against Olaf Scholz of the SPD, the finance minister in Merkel’s grand coalition, who won all three televised debates between the leading candidates.

Both the conservatives and the FDP reject a European “debt union” and want to ensure that joint European Union borrowing to finance the bloc’s coronavirus recovery package remains a one-off. The SPD has talked about taking steps towards a fiscal union.

The Greens favour a common European fiscal policy to support investment in the environment, research, infrastructure and education.

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