The Social Democrats claimed first place in the German parliamentary elections on Sunday evening ahead of Angela Merkel’s conservatives, which have fallen to a historically low level and which tarnish the Chancellor’s planned political retirement.

The SPD and their leader Olaf Scholz are slightly ahead, with 26%, the conservative CDU-CSU union led by Armin Laschet, second with 24%, according to a poll at the exit of the polling stations for the public channel ZDF.

Another poll, for ARD this time, on the other hand, gives the two major parties neck and neck, with 25% each.

“We have the mandate to form a government. Olaf Scholz will become chancellor ”, hastened to announce the general secretary of the social democratic party, Lars Klingbeil.

For the Christian Democrats, the “losses are bitter”, for his part admitted Paul Ziemak, number two of the CDU. The party had never fallen below the 30% threshold. In 2017, he still recorded 32.8% of the vote.

Whatever happens, the results that are looming in Germany mark an unexpected rebirth of the Social Democratic Party, which was dying only a few months ago. The polls were greeted with a clamor of joy at the party’s Berlin headquarters.

A large part of voters having voted by mail, this first trend could however be corrected over the evening after the first counts.

« Catastrophe »

The Christian Democrats are sure to suffer an unprecedented setback, which will cause turmoil internally and promises a complicated succession of Angela Merkel.

The score below 30% is a “disaster”, according to the popular daily image.

This setback casts a shadow over the end of Merkel’s reign, whose popularity remains at its zenith after four terms but who has proved unable to prepare for her succession.

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The Greens and their candidate Annalena Baerbock, a favorite time of the ballot, miss the boat with, according to these polls, between 14 and 15%. Little reason for satisfaction: they beat their record in 2009, when they obtained 10.7% of the vote, and are up six points compared to 2017.

The Liberals of the FDP, fourth with around 12%, appear to be the “kingmakers” essential for building a future coalition.

The far right of the AfD, whose entry into the Bundestag was the main highlight of the previous election in 2017, confirms its roots in the German political landscape. But with between 10 and 11%, this Islamophobic party undermined by internal conflicts, is down slightly compared to four years ago (12.6%).

If the trend is confirmed, Olaf Scholz, austere vice-chancellor and finance minister of the outgoing government, thus has chances of succeeding Angela Merkel, chancellor for 16 years, and of initiating the “change” promised at the end of the campaign.

This centrist Social Democrat, however, will have to build a three-party coalition, a first in contemporary German history.

The negotiations are therefore likely to last several months, to the chagrin of the partners of the largest European economy, who fear paralysis of the EU until early 2022.

The Greens, who did not hide during the campaign their availability to enter a social democratic government, should be part of the team.

Tractations

The identity of the third auxiliary force remains totally uncertain. The liberals of the FDP, clearly marked on the right, are a possible partner in the framework of a so-called “traffic light” coalition.

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Another possible partner, the radical left of Die Linke, which according to these polls brings together around 5%, is not guaranteed to pass the 5% mark and thus save its group in the Bundestag.

Olaf Scholz was open to discussions with these two disagreements on virtually all subjects.

The negotiations are likely to last several months and thus delay the effective departure of Ms. Merkel, 67 years of which more than 30 spent in politics.

The Conservatives themselves have not said their last word. Their leader, the awkward and unpopular Armin Laschet, had warned during the campaign that he could try, even confined in second place, to build a coalition that would propel him to the chancellery.

After a chaotic campaign marked by its errors and inadequacies, Mr. Laschet, the big loser of the evening at this stage, will however have to be very persuasive. Like a failed act, by voting he broke the rule of ballot secrecy, letting his choice appear in front of the cameras.

After Merkel ultimately risks giving rise to a new war of leaders within the German right, where the question of Mr. Laschet’s future at the head of the CDU is raised, eight months after his election.

After having imposed on the forceps his candidacy in the spring against the Bavarian Markus Söder, much more popular than him, the current leader of the vast region of North Rhine-Westphalia has indeed thrown his camp into the wall by multiplying the blunders and by showing himself incapable of mobilizing a conservative camp won by the erosion of power.

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