Merkel claims mandate

2017-09-24 19:24
German Chancellor and CDU party leader Angela Merkel addresses supporters after exit poll results were broadcast on public television at an election night event at the party's headquarters in Berlin. (Odd Andersen,  AFP)

German Chancellor and CDU party leader Angela Merkel addresses supporters after exit poll results were broadcast on public television at an election night event at the party's headquarters in Berlin. (Odd Andersen, AFP)

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Berlin - Chancellor Angela Merkel has claimed a mandate to form a new German government with her conservative bloc. She's also vowing to win back voters from the nationalist Alternative for Germany party after it got enough support to enter parliament.

Projections show Merkel's conservative Union bloc finishing first in Sunday's election but well short of its election results in 2013. Supporters at party headquarters greeted her with cheers, applause and chants of "Angie!"

Merkel conceded that "of course we would have preferred a better result, that's completely clear." But she noted that her party has been in power for 12 years and said the last four years have been "extremely challenging."

Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has been harshly critical of Merkel and her decision to let in large numbers of migrants in the last two years. Merkel told her supporters that "we want to win back AfD voters" by solving the country's problems and addressing their concerns.

Earlier Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-left challenger, Martin Schulz, conceded defeat in Germany's election.

Projections for ARD and ZDF public television showed Schulz's Social Democrats on course for their worst result in post-World War II Germany in Sunday's election, with support of only 20-21 percent.

Schulz told supporters at party headquarters that "today is a difficult and bitter day." He added that "we have lost the federal election."

Schulz said that the party had been successful as the junior partner in Merkel's outgoing coalition government, citing its introduction of a national minimum wage among other things. But he conceded that "we clearly didn't manage to maintain and expand our traditional voter base."

Supporters of the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany party broke out in cheers as election polls indicated they'd emerged as the third-strongest party in Germany's election, and co-leader Alexander Gauland vowed they'd "change this country."

Gauland promised supporters Sunday that the party, known by its German initials AfD, would stay on the heels of the country's established parties.

Gauland says "we will chase them. We will chase Merkel or whomever else."

Exit polls suggest the AfD finished with about 13 percent of the vote, giving them seats in parliament for the first time. The Social Democrats were in second place with about 21 percent and Merkel's conservative bloc with about 33.5 percent.

Gauland says "this is a great day in the history of our party, we are in parliament! We will change this country."


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