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Merkel set to win 4th term

Merkel set to win 4th term

Merkel set to win 4th term

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her supporters to keep up the momentum in the final hours before Sunday's national election, urging a last push to try to sway undecided voters.

Exit polls conducted for public television channels ARD and ZDF suggest Merkel's conservative bloc finished first in Germany's election, with between 32.5 and 33.5 percent in Sunday's vote. "We are entering the Bundestag for the first time and we will change this country".

The new parliament will have six caucuses, compared with four previously, and the Social Democrats said they intend to lead the opposition.

Merkel said before the elections that she was open to all possible coalition options, except a partnership with the far-right AfD or the socialist Left Party.

According to the ARD/Infratest Dimap prediction, the hard-right, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party will become the third largest party, with 13.5 percent of the vote. Supporters at party headquarters greeted her with cheers, applause and chants of "Angie!"

"We don't have a single vote to give away", she said.

Such an arrangement is untested at the national level in Germany and widely seen as inherently unstable.

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The Social Democrats made clear that they don't want to be part of it.

The principal beneficiary was the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany which joins the pro-business Free Democrats, the Greens and the post-communist Left in the Bundestag after it channelled voter rage at Merkel for allowing some 1.3 million migrants to enter the country since 2015. If she can move to heal some of the divisions, Germany's first female leader and the first from the formerly communist east may be on track to match former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's record of 16 years in office.

Her CDU has since 2013 governed in a "grand coalition" with the SPD, but many in the center-left party are unwilling to repeat the exercise, believing that their party needs a spell in opposition in order to rediscover its objective and present a more original message to the electorate by the time of the next vote. Once a government is in place, Merkel will face huge global expectations - from shoring up the euro area together with France, to setting Europe's tone in its dealings with the USA under President Donald Trump, and tackling the diesel-emissions crisis that threatens Germany's dominance in producing luxury cars. The center-left party was a junior partner in Merkel's most recent government, but both sides are lukewarm about joining forces again.

As she starts her fourth term, there is no challenger in sight, but plenty of challenges ahead for Merkel, whom New Yorker magazine just labelled "the most powerful woman in a world filled with unstable men".

Schulz's defeat means the Social Democrats haven't won an election since 2002. Schulz, 61, a former president of the European Parliament, appeared a formidable contender when the SPD pulled virtually even with Merkel's bloc soon after he entered the race in January. But his surge quickly faded and he failed to convince voters to turn their backs on Europe's longest-serving leader.

Merkel, during her only televised debate during her campaign, said Germany must work with the United States, on issues like ISIS and Afghanistan and that despite their differences on diplomacy, trade and climate change, she will do her best to find common ground with the American leader.

Founded as an anti-euro party opposed to financial bailouts for Greece and other southern European nations, the AfD narrowly missed out on Bundestag seats four years ago. The xenophobic party ran on an anti-immigrant platform with an emphasis on closing Germany's borders to migrants.

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