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Sunday, September 18, 2005

BBC NEWS | Europe | No clear winner after German vote

BBC NEWS | Europe | No clear winner after German vote No clear winner after German vote
Early projections show a tight finish to Germany's election, with both main parties claiming victory.

Challenger Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) won only the slimmest of leads, early results suggest.

Some predictions give the CDU the same number of seats as Gerhard Schroeder's centre-left Social Democrats (SDP).

Mrs Merkel, the pre-poll favourite to become chancellor, looks unlikely to be able to form her preferred coalition and may have to join with the SPD.


PROJECTED ELECTION RESULTS
CDU/CSU: 35.4%
SPD: 34.2%
Free Democrats: 10%
Greens: 8.1%
Left Party: 8.5%
Source: ARD television
But Mr Schroeder has insisted that he has enough votes to remain as chancellor.

He said he could envisage a grand coalition of the two largest parties, but only if he was its leader.

Projections based on early results and exit polls put the CDU and its sister CSU party in the lead with about 35% of the vote, against about 34% for the SPD.

Opinions polls before the election had suggested the CDU would get more than than 40% of the vote.

Their intended coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, did well with 10%, estimates said - but apparently not well enough to secure a joint majority.

Both the new Left party and the Greens are credited with about 8%.

Supporters subdued

After the unofficial exit polls were released, Mrs Merkel said she had "a clear mandate" to be the next chancellor - although she admitted the CDU "probably" did not have enough votes for a coalition with the Free Democrats.


The mood among her supporters was subdued. The CDU has fallen back from a lead of around 20% in the polls when Mr Schroeder called an early election.

She said that she would hold talks "with all parties" except the Left Party about forming a new coalition.

However Mr Schroeder refused to admit defeat, raising his hands like a champion amid joyful scenes among his supporters.

"I do not understand how the [Christian Democratic] Union, which started off so confidently and arrogantly, takes a claim to political leadership from a disastrous election result," he said.

"The result today shows that the country will have Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor," he said to cheers.

Deep split

The BBC's William Horsley in Berlin says the result may well bring political confusion and an unstable government.

Weeks of tough talks lie ahead before the country gets a new government, he adds.

Germany has shown itself deeply split between East and West and between reformers and those unwilling to face change, he says.

With sluggish growth and unemployment remaining above 11%, the two sides have argued ferociously over the nature of economic reforms they both say are necessary.

Mr Schroeder defended the labour and welfare changes he has set in motion, saying Mrs Merkel's more liberal proposals on tax and labour reform go too far.

They also differ on Germany's direction in the world.

Mr Schroeder has joined France in trying to counter US global dominance, while Mrs Merkel said if she won she would mend fences with Washington.
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