Chancellor Angela Merkel`s conservative bloc won a lackluster victory in Germany`s national election Sunday while the anti-migrant, anti-euro nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party managed a triumphant entry into the parliament.
Merkel`s main center-left rivals, the Social Democrats, were set for their worst result since World War II. The party, led by Merkel`s challenger Martin Schulz, vowed immediately to leave her coalition government and go into opposition.
The outcome puts Merkel on course for a fourth term as chancellor - but it certainly means that she has a tricky task in forming a new coalition government.
"Of course, we would have preferred a better result, that is completely clear," she said. "But we mustn`t forget that we have had an extremely challenging parliamentary term behind us."
Schulz`s Social Democrats were seen trailing far behind, with 20-21 percent support. That would be the outright worst post-war for the party, which has served since 2013 as the junior partner in a "grand coalition" of Germany`s biggest parties under Merkel.
"We have a mandate to form a new government, and no government can be formed against us," Merkel added.
AfD capitalized on discontent with established politicians but particularly targeted those angry over the influx of more than 1 million mostly Muslim migrants into Germany in the past two years under Merkel.
AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland vowed that "we will take our country back" and promised to "hunt" Merkel.
"This is a big day in our party`s history. We have entered the Bundestag and we will change this country," Gauland said.
Big cheers went up at AfD`s election party after exit polls showed them finishing in third place. Some supporters chanted "AfD! AfD!" and others started singing the German national anthem.
If the Social Democrats stick to their pledge, Merkel will effectively have only one option to form her new government: teaming up with the Free Democrats and the Greens in an alliance that has never yet been tried in a national German government.
That combination - known as a "Jamaica" coalition because the parties` colors match those of that Caribbean nation`s flag - will have to overcome the traditional distrust between both the Free Democrats and the Greens and between parts of Merkel`s conservative bloc and the Greens.
The Left Party is incompatible with the conservatives and all others have voted not to work with AfD.
Mainstream parties` leaders vowed a robust response to AfD`s entry into parliament. Greens co-leader Katrin Goering-Eckardt told supporters: "there will again be Nazis sitting in parliament."
Merkel has over the years pulled her party toward the center, but may now face new pressure for a more robust conservative image.
Bangla Insider/ MA