Official results confirm that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have won Germany’s election but indicate they have finished short of an absolute majority.
Her centre-right coalition partners crashed out of Parliament.
Ms Merkel’s conservative Union bloc won 41.5% of yesterday’s vote. Its coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, slumped to 4.8% – not enough to win seats.
Challenger Peer Steinbrueck’s Social Democrats won 25.7%, their Green allies 8.4% and the hardline Left Party 8.6%.
Election officials did not immediately provide a seat tally but Ms Merkel’s conservatives are 1.2 percentage points behind the other parties combined.
The most likely outcome is a Merkel-led coalition with the Social Democrats.
Election officials later said that Ms Merkel's bloc won the largest number of seats, but fell just short of a majority, which would have been 316 of the 630 seats.
Seats were allocated as follows:
Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union: 311 seats
Social Democratic Party: 192 seats
The Left: 64 seats
Green Party: 63 seats
None of the other parties won enough votes to claim seats.