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UPDATE – German CDU’s Laschet vows to try to build conservative-led government

German SPD Secretary-General says we have mandate to govern
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UPDATE –

BERLIN, Sept 26 (Reuters) – Germany’s conservative CDU chancellor candidate Armin Laschet said his party could not be satisfied with the results of an election on Sunday but that he would do everything possible to build a conservative-led government.

“We cannot be satisfied with the results of the election,” Laschet told his supporters after first projected results put his conservative bloc a whisker behind the Social Democrats. One exit poll had put them neck-and-neck.

“We will do everything possible to build a conservative-led government because Germans now need a future coalition that modernises our country,” he said. “It will probably be the first time that we will have a government with three partners.”

Earlier – German CDU/CSU and SPD tied in national election – exit poll

Germany’s CDU/CSU conservatives and their Social Democrat rivals were virtually tied in Sunday’s national election, exit polls 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% 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. A Forschungsgruppe Wahlen poll for broadcaster ZDF put the SPD and its chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz on 26% and the CDU/CSU on 24%.

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“The SPD is back. We are where we belong,” SPD Secretary General 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.

CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak told ARD after the publication of their poll: “That hurts”.

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

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 Scholz, the finance minister in Merkel’s “grand coalition” who won all three televised debates between the leading candidates.

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.

A row between Washington and Paris over a deal for Australia to buy U.S. instead of French submarines has put Germany in an awkward spot between allies, but also gives Berlin the chance to help heal relations and rethink their common stance on China.

On economic policy, French President Emmanuel Macron is eager to forge a common European fiscal policy, which the Greens support but the CDU/CSU and FDP reject. The Greens also want “a massive expansion offensive for renewables”.

Whatever coalition formation ends up in power, Germany’s friends can at least take heart from an election campaign in which moderate centrism prevailed, and the populism that has taken hold in other European countries failed to break through.

The ARD exit poll showed the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on track for 11%, below the 12.6% it got four years ago, and all other parties have ruled out a coalition with it.

EPA-EFE/FILIP SINGER / POL

EARLIER

Update – First Reactions

Senior politicians from Germany’s parties reacted on Sunday to exit polls showing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats running neck-and-neck in a national election.

Paul Ziemiak, Christian Democrat General Secretary said “That hurts.”

SPD minister Hubertus Heil: “This is a spectacular success. This demonstrates citizens’ faith in Olaf Scholz.”

Senior Green lawmaker Katrin Goering-Eckardt: “This has been a once-in-generation election.”

German SPD Secretary-General says we have mandate to govern

German Social Democrat Secretary-General Lars Klingbeil said on Sunday his party had a mandate to form a coalition after exit polls showed the SPD neck and neck with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 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. An exit poll for broadcaster ARD showed SPD and conservatives tied while other polls showed SPD marginally ahead.

(Writing by Paul Carrel, Thomas Escritt; Editing by T(Writing by Joseph Nasr, Editing by Timothy Heritage, Raissa Kasolowsky and Tomasz Janowski)

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