The exit polls Wednesday in Germany’s elections showed a super-close race between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the Greens — for a place at the top of the German political food chain.
Winning 25.7 percent of the vote, the Social Democrats (SPD) were only 0.1 percent behind the CDU. And yet they had neither the chance nor the clout to deny Ms. Merkel a fourth term in office.
The SPD’s voters became less flustered by the result than by Ms. Merkel’s main opponent, Martin Schulz, the state leader who kept a dazzling rise to the top of the polls that had appeared impossible to resist.
His tactic all along has been to make broad gestures toward what he calls “social cohesion,” above all by backing social and refugee policies that broadly seem in line with the SPD’s long-standing stand on matters like immigration and equal rights for women.
But by early Wednesday, his list of principles — including limiting immigration to Europe’s borders and sending refugees to Europe’s interior rather than to Germany — seemed weaker still against the German electorate’s pro-immigration, pro-family sentiments.