Angela Merkel's conservative bloc will be the largest party in the next German parliament, but provisional election results point to a worse-than-expected majority for the German chancellor.
Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister-party the Christian Social Union (CSU) won 33 percent of the vote. It would make them the largest parliamentary group, but that is down from 41.5 percent in the last election in 2013 and lower than recent polling. It is also their worst result since 1949, according to Reuters.
Speaking after the exit polls, Merkel said her party had hoped for a better result at the federal election but was happy that it had achieved the main goals of the campaign. She vowed to win back voters from the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
The center-left Social Democrats (SPD), which are currently in a coalition with Merkel, slumped to 20.5 percent - a new post-war low. Party leader Martin Schulz said it was a "bitter day" for Germany's social democrats. He added that the result meant it was clear the party should go into opposition and he would seek re-election as party leader in December.