Germany’s CDU/CSU conservatives and their Social Democrat rivals were tied in Sunday’s national election, according to an exit poll.
Polls closed at 6pm in local time (4pm BST) as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to stand down after 16 years in power.
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) were on track for 25.5 per cent of the vote, ahead of 24.5 per cent for Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative bloc, projections for broadcaster ARD showed.
“The SPD is back. We are where we belong,” SPD secretary geeneral Lars Klingbeil said shortly after first exit polls. He said the polls showed the SPD and its chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz had the mandate to govern.
However, both parties believed they could win.
Political leaders will be looking to have informal discussions with the smaller parties, the Greens and liberal Free Democrats (FDP), who took 15 per cent and 11 per cent of the vote respectively.
But coalition negotiations could take months to formalise, leaving Merkel in a caretaker role.
“This will be all about striking deals among multiple players, and several options seem possible,” said Carsten Nickel at Teneo, a political risk consultancy. “The talks could take some time.”