German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term on Sunday, but now faces the tricky prospect of forming a coalition with two disparate new partners after voters weakened her conservatives and a nationalist, anti-migrant party surged in the parliament.
Merkel’s center-left challenger, Martin Schulz, conceded his Social Democrats had suffered a “crushing election defeat,” with projections showing the party’s worst performance in post-World War II Germany.
He vowed to take his party, the junior partner in Merkel’s outgoing “grand coalition” of Germany’s traditionally dominant parties, into opposition.
“We have a mandate to form a new government, and no government can be formed against us,” Merkel told cheering supporters. She added that it wasn’t a “matter of course” to finish first after 12 years in power, and that the past four years were “extremely challenging.”
Stressing that “we live in stormy times” internationally, she declared: “I have the intention of achieving a stable government in Germany.”
The biggest winner was the 4-year-old Alternative for Germany, or AfD. It finished third after a campaign that centered on shrill criticism of Merkel and her decision in 2015 to allow large numbers of migrants into Germany, but also harnessed wider discontent with established politicians.