Conservative challenger Angela Merkel claimed that her slight edge in German elections gave her a mandate to form a government, but conceded disappointment her Christian Democrats fell well short of their target.
“We would naturally have wanted a better result,” Merkel said. Her party until recent weeks held a double-digit lead over the Social Democrats, and it fell short even of the 38.5% it scored in the last election three years ago.
Merkel said: “We are the strongest force and want to form this government, and we will see what comes out. It will be more difficult than we thought.”
Official results showed Merkel’s party finished just ahead of Schroeder’s Social Democrats, with 35.2% of the vote to 34.3 per cent for the chancellor’s party.
The only realistic options for Merkel were a “grand coalition” with Schroeder’s Social Democrats and a three-way combination with the Free Democrats and the Greens, Schroeder’s current junior coalition partner.
Schroeder, meanwhile, claimed he had his own mandate to try to form a new government.