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Merkel on track for fourth term after German election - exit poll

BERLIN, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives secured a fourth consecutive term in office on Sunday in an election that brought a far-right party into the German parliament for the first time in more than half a century, exit polls indicated.

After shock results last year, from Britain's vote to leave the European Union to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, many look to Merkel to rally a bruised liberal Western order and lead a post-Brexit Europe.

Merkel's conservative bloc - her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU) - won 32.5 percent of the vote, making them by far the largest parliamentary group, according to an exit poll for the broadcaster ARD.

Their closest rivals, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), slumped to 20.0 percent - a new post-war low. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) stunned the establishment by finishing third and entering parliament for the first time with 13.5 percent.

Merkel, Europe's longest-serving leader, joins the late Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany's rebirth after World War Two, as the only post-war chancellors to win four national elections.

She must now form a coalition government - an arduous process that could take months as all potential partners are unsure whether they really want to share power with her.

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Kevin Liffey)