Merkel seen winning 4th term, nationalists strong in Germany
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc was on course today for a lackluster victory in Germany's national election while the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany party was heading for a triumphant entry into parliament, projections suggested.
Merkel's main centre-left rivals, the Social Democrats, were set to slump to a historic low after today's vote. The party, led by challenger Martin Schulz, vowed immediately to leave Merkel's coalition government and go into opposition.
The outcome puts Merkel on course to win a fourth term as chancellor - but leaves her with the very tricky task of forming a new government.
Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and early counting, showed Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and their Bavaria-only allies, the Christian Social Union, winning around 33 per cent of the vote - down from 41.5 per cent four years ago.
Schulz's Social Democrats were seen trailing far behind, with 20-21 per cent support. That would be the worst result since World War II for the party, which has served since 2013 as the junior partner in a "grand coalition" of Germany's biggest parties under Merkel.
Smaller parties were the chief beneficiaries of an erosion in support for the pair: above all the right-wing nationalist Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, which was polling up to 13.5 percent. It capitalized on discontent with established politicians but particularly targeted those angry over the influx of more than 1 million mostly Muslim migrants in the past two years.