Merkel wins fourth term
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 into parliament.
Merkel's centre-left challenger, Martin Schulz, conceded that 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 four-year-old Alternative for Germany, or AfD. It finished third after a campaign that centred 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.
One of AfD's leaders, Alice Weidel, said it will provide "constructive opposition". But co-leader Alexander Gauland struck a harsher tone, vowing that "we will take our country back" and promising to "chase" Merkel.
Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and partial 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. It was one of their weakest post-war showings.