German voters signaled that Chancellor Angela Merkel will have a tough time maintaining her grip on power as her centrist bloc of Social Democrats and Greens fell short of the 3 percent threshold to win a parliamentary majority in elections.
The Social Democrats, the junior partner in the governing coalition, crushed Mrs. Merkel’s conservatives, coming in at 22.4 percent, according to the German election official, Dorothee Bär, from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The Social Democrats’ victory represented a major blow to Mrs. Merkel, who has pledged to keep Germany united through Brexit, and had hoped to win an outright majority of votes.
Without a clear majority, Mrs. Merkel will have to form a new government. Many predict a coalition of left- and right-wing forces, with both the Social Democrats and the far-right Alternative for Germany coming in well ahead of the chancellor’s conservatives.
The election marked the first chance for Mrs. Merkel’s final term to be decided since national elections in September. She will have to bridge the stark ideological divide between Germany’s two dominant parties. She is a centrist trying to forge a coalition between the far-right and the far-left.
Whether Mrs. Merkel will have any chance to form a coalition government remains to be seen.
While the result represented the biggest electoral defeat for Mrs. Merkel since 2005, she still won more than 40 percent of the vote, compared with 27 percent for the Social Democrats.
However, her conservatives managed to lose more than 1 million votes from the 2013 national election.
With no change in party status, however, Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, will continue to hold the three seats in the German Parliament.
The conservative bloc is still the largest. The bloc’s previous ally, the Social Democrats, finished fourth in the state elections, with a 4.2 percent share of the vote, putting it four points behind the Greens.
Germany has had three peacetime coalitions between the two largest parties since World War II.