Christian Democratic Union CDU party leader and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacts on first exit polls in the German general election.

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

Christian Democratic Union CDU party leader and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacts on first exit polls in the German general election.

An exit poll on Sunday evening showed that Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc will be the largest party in the next German parliament, but early indications 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 32.5 percent of the vote, an exit poll for broadcaster ARD indicated. 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.

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 20.0 percent – a new post-war low, according to Reuters. 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.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) look to have finished third and will likely enter parliament for the first time with an indicated 13.5 percent of the vote. Only founded in 2013, the AfD party will be the first nationalist, right-wing party to enter the German parliament since World War II.

Campaigning on an anti-immigrant, anti-euro stance, the AfD has become something of a protest party in Germany, mopping up voters on both sides of the political spectrum who feel disenfranchised and disaffected by Merkel’s policies over recent years.

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