German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term Sunday, but now faces the tricky prospect of forming a coalition with two disparate new partners after voters weakened her conservatives and a nationalist, anti-migrant party surged into parliament.
Merkel’s center-left challenger, Martin Schulz, conceded his Social Democrats had suffered a “crushing election defeat,” with projections showing the party’s worst performance in post-World War II Germany.
The biggest winner was the 4-year-old Alternative for Germany, or AfD. It finished third after a campaign that centered on shrill criticism of Merkel and her decision in 2015 to allow large numbers of migrants into Germany, but also harnessed wider discontent with established politicians.
One of AfD’s leaders, Alice Weidel, said it will provide “constructive opposition.” But co-leader Alexander Gauland struck a harsher tone, vowing that “we will take our country back” and promising to “chase” Merkel.
Final results released shortly before 4 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Monday showed Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and their Bavaria-only allies, the Christian Social Union, winning 33 percent of the vote — down from 41.5 percent four years ago. It was one of their weakest post-war showings.
Schulz’s Social Democrats were trailing far behind, with 20.5 percent support, down from 25.7 percent in 2013 and undercutting their previous post-war low of 23 percent eight years ago.
AfD won 12.6 percent of the vote. It was followed by the election’s other big winner — the pro-business Free Democratic Party, which returned to parliament after a four-year break with 10.7 percent.
The Free Democrats were Merkel’s coalition partners in her second-term government from 2009-2013, but lost all their seats four years ago.
The Left Party took 9.2 percent of the vote, coming slightly ahead of the traditionally left-leaning Greens who won 8.9 percent, completing a parliament that now has six caucuses rather than the previous four.
All mainstream parties have ruled out working with AfD and Merkel’s conservatives won’t form a coalition with the Left Party.