The Social Democrats (SPD), fronted by its chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz, have edged ahead in the national election, projected results have showed, putting them in pole position to lead a government for the first time since 2005. This result would also end 16 years of conservative-led rule under the departing Mrs Merkel. Projections for broadcaster ARD showed the centre-left SPD with 25.5 percent of the vote, marginally ahead of the CDU/CSU conservative bloc with 24.5 percent.
The result would also mean the CDU/CSU slumping to a post-war low for a federal election.
An Infratest dimap poll for ARD also showed 38 percent want the SPD to lead the next Government, compared to 28 percent backing the conservatives.
More than half wanted the liberal Free Democrats and Greens to be part of a new Government.
Mr Schiolz is the preferred Chancellor candidate with 45 percent of voters, with the conservatives’ Armin Laschet scoring just 20 percent.
But the marginal gap between the political parties will trigger lengthy coalition talks will follow before a new Government takes office.
This will likely be the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) but talks could still drag on for several months – as seen from the last election in 2017.
But more worryingly, six in 10 of those polled by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen in their exit poll for broadcaster ZDF said nobody would succeed in filling the void left by Mrs Merkel when she leaves office.
Jens Geier of the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament told Politico if Mr Scholz managed to get elected as Chancellor, “Germany would take a much more active role in Brussels”.
But one political expert has said a German election result without a clear outcome would be seen as a disaster for the EU.
Joel Reland, a foreign policy researcher at The UK in a Changing Europe think tank, told Express.co.uk: “Months of coalition negotiations would be the worst possible result for the EU because it has a lot on its plate, and would thus benefit from the clear leadership of one of its two major powers.
“The US withdrawal from Afghanistan and furore around the AUKUS submarine deal have made discussions of how to bolster EU security and ‘strategic autonomy’ a pressing concern.
“Likewise, there are major questions over how to deal with EU member states such as Hungary which defies the EU over its attitude to the rule of law; how to drive the economic recovery from Covid-19; and how to accelerate EU decarbonisation (especially in the run-up to COP26).
“All of these issues require clear support from Germany, so the EU needs it to have a functioning and decisive executive.”