Germany’s Angela Merkel began the tough task of trying to build a coalition government on Monday after securing a fourth term as chancellor in an election which saw her support slide and the far right making significant gains.
Damaged by her decision two years ago to allow one million migrants into Germany, Merkel’s conservative bloc secured 33 percent of the vote, losing 8.5 points — its lowest level since 1949. Her coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democrats, also slumped and said they would go into opposition.
Voters flocked to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), the first far-right party to enter the German parliament in more than half a century. However, the AfD hardly had time to savor its third-place showing before it fell into internal bickering.
Many Germans see the rise of the AfD as a similar rejection of the status quo as votes for Brexit and Donald Trump last year. But Germany’s political center held up better than in Britain and the United States as more voters have benefited from globalisation and most shun the country’s extremist past.
Merkel’s party remained the biggest parliamentary bloc and Europe’s most powerful leader said her conservatives would set about building the next government. She said she was sure a coalition would be agreed by Christmas.
Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democrats that have governed with Merkel since 2013, said his party had no choice but to go into opposition after dropping to a post-war low of 20.5 percent.
“We have understood our task — to be a strong opposition in this country and to defend democracy against those who question it and attack it,” Schulz told party members to applause.
Investors were unsettled by the prospect of a weaker Merkel at the head of a potentially unstable coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens, dubbed “Jamaica” as the parties’ black, yellow and green colors mirror its flag.