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German voters have handed Merkel an emphatic win. But the road ahead may not be smooth.
In a decisive endorsement of her policies at home and in Europe, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic bloc gathered a stunning 41.5 per cent of the vote, only a few seats short of an absolute majority. The conservatives have not registered such a victory since the heady days of reunification in 1990, when then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl won a third term — and brought an inexperienced, 35-year-old Merkel into the fold from the communist east. Merkel is only the third post-war chancellor to be returned to power for the third time, and the only European leader to be re-elected since the onset of the eurozone crisis in 2010. Yet, the task of forming a stable government might be more complicated than the numbers suggest.
Although Merkel convincingly beat her main rivals — the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), which received just over 25 per cent of the vote — her junior coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, a traditional kingmaker, has failed to cross the 5 per cent threshold required under Germany's proportional representation system for seats in the Bundestag, as the German parliament is known. This means Merkel will likely need to pursue a grand alliance with the SDP, as in her first term in 2005-09 — a prospect the SDP is understandably unenthusiastic about after losing big in the 2009 election as a result of the conservatives getting much of the credit for that government's management of the global financial crisis. In the absence of a secure governing coalition, Merkel could struggle to push legislation through an upper house dominated by left-leaning parties.
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