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Live Reporting

Paul Kirby, Claudia Allen and Joshua Nevett

All times stated are UK

  1. Thanks for following our live coverage

    Olaf Scholz, chancellor candidate of the German Social Democrats (SPD), waves to supporters in reaction to initial results at SPD headquarter during the Social Democratic Party (SPD) election event in Berlin, Germany, 26 September 2021

    Thank you for following our live coverage of Germany's elections - which will, eventually, see a replacement for Angela Merkel as chancellor voted in by the new MPs.

    We're wrapping up our coverage now, but here are the main things you need to know from election night:

    • Projected results show the centre-left Social Democrats almost two percentage points ahead of the conservative Christian Democrats. We are still awaiting preliminary final results
    • The SPD candidate for chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said his party had a clear mandate to rule
    • But the conservatives' candidate, and Angela Merkel's chosen successor, Armin Laschet, vowed to do everything he could to build a government
    • The parties which came third and fourth, the Greens and the liberal FDP, will be key to forming a governing coalition
    • Both main party leaders said they wanted a new government to be in place before Christmas
    • The task facing Merkel's successor is to lead Europe's foremost economy over the next four years, with climate change at the top of voters' agenda.

    You can read our full news story on the election here.

  2. How will Germans look back on Merkel?

    Angela Merkel
    Image caption: Angela Merkel has dominated German politics for 16 years

    A reminder that Angela Merkel remains German chancellor until her replacement is elected by parliament - and that could easily take weeks or months. If she's still in post on 17 December she will become Germany's longest serving post-war chancellor.

    How will history remember her? Here’s the assessment of four experts.

    She has turned German politics into a discussion about policy rather than politics, says Matt Qvortrup, professor of political science at Coventry University. She has staged a bit of a revolution in German politics and world politics generally.

    Her position has been symbolically important for women's representation, says Charlotte Galpin, senior lecturer in German and European politics at the University of Birmingham. Yet, such symbolic representation doesn't automatically mean wider change, especially for women of colour and the LGBTQ+ community.

    Her policy legacy is a somewhat bizarre mix of modernisation and backwardness, says Dr Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, professor of political science at the University of Mannheim. Many of the modernising features would not be expected from a Christian Democratic chancellor.

    Her legacy is a determined and silent one, says Dr Katrin Schreiter, lecturer in German and history at King's College London. Her leadership is based on sober evaluation and projecting reliability.

    You can read more expert verdicts on Merel’s legacy here.

  3. Greens 'still fighting image of prohibition party'

    Omid Nouripour

    As we've been reporting, the parties projected to come third and fourth in the election - the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) - will be the kingmakers in coalition negotiations.

    While the Greens have been delighted at their relatively strong showing, their numbers have fallen substantially compared to opinion polls earlier in the summer - which showed the party in the lead nationally.

    Speaking to the BBC, Omid Nouripour, a member of parliament for the Greens and their spokesman on foreign affairs, said the party could have done better but it was fighting against public perceptions.

    "This is one of the funniest moments when you are doing your campaign and people come over and tell you you're a prohibition party... you want to take us away cars, airplanes, I don't know, bridges or rivers or whatever," said Mr Nouripour. "This is a cliché which you have to tackle."

    "We didn't do a proper job on that in the last weeks and this is one of the mistakes maybe we have to talk about," he added. "But at the end of the day these clichés will not last forever and we're going to fight it."

    The Green lead candidate, Annalena Baerbock, promised the next government would be a climate government.

    But the Greens' policy of funding the fight against global warming through higher taxes is in direct contrast to the low taxation proposed by the FDP - a more natural ally of the centre right.

    The SDP and the conservatives have already made overtures - separately - to the FDP and the Greens, but negotiations are likely to be long and difficult.

  4. What do young voters think of Merkel?

    Sira Thierij

    BBC News, Berlin

    “She brought a lot of stability, she was like a rock,” says 18-year-old student Laura of the outgoing chancellor.

    Angela Merkel is still a very popular leader, but when a government does eventually get formed, she will leave German politics for good.

    Image caption: For Laura, the outgoing chancellor did not do a good enough job

    “But especially when it comes to giving young people a voice, they really missed their shot. She didn’t prepare this country for change.”

    In all, 14% of voters are under 30, but an estimated 38% are 60 or over. Tackling the climate crisis is key for “Generation Merkel” - some of whom can't remember another chancellor - and the Greens are most popular for 18- to 29-year-olds.

    “Germany should care less about making money and instead look after future generations. We should be an example for other countries,” says Rebecca, 23, from Berlin.

    Rebecca (R)
    Image caption: Rebecca is among many Germans who see climate change as top priority

    Marion Wenzel’s home was ravaged by the summer floods in Ahrweiler. “I’m so busy with rebuilding I didn’t have any time for the parties’ programmes.Our biggest task is to have a clear way for the future.”

    Blogger Diana zur Löwen, 26, is worried that not enough will change: “We have to tackle digitisation and optimise education. I’m not sure if all the parties have a good programme for that. Young people are not really the main focus.”

  5. What other elections are happening in Germany?

    Manuela Schwesig gestures after first exit polls for the state elections in Schwerin, Germany, September 26, 2021.
    Image caption: Manuela Schwesig has won a convincing victory in state elections

    We've been focusing on the federal elections - but two German states are also voting in new assemblies.

    In the north-eastern Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, the SPD are well ahead of all the other parties. State premier Manuela Schwesig is set to stay in the role she's held since 2017.

    In Berlin the SPD are also ahead in the battle to control the city-state's assembly - but the Greens are close behind them.

  6. Far-right party has found steady voter base

    Charlotte Galpin

    Senior lecturer in German and European politics at the University of Birmingham

    An AfD rally
    Image caption: The AfD has been particularly strong in eastern German states in recent years

    Following its first entry into the Bundestag in 2017, the AfD is set to repeat its success at this election.

    While in some regions support for the party has declined, and its highs of around 15% in the polls around 2018/9 have dropped, it had been polling at a steady 10-12% across Germany ahead of the election.

    Tonight's preliminary results show it is likely to receive about 11% of the vote nationally, and be the largest party in the eastern states of Saxony and Thuringia.

    These are territories of the former GDR where the radical right has been particularly strong since the early 1990s, and which suffered socio-economic deprivation as a result of the reunification between East and West Germany.

    While in other regions the AfD’s support is lower, the consistent support for an anti-immigration and Islamophobic party of around a tenth of voters across Germany demonstrates a wider problem with racism and suggests that the party has found a steady core voter base.

  7. The rise of the Greens

    Greens leader Annalena Baerbock
    Image caption: The Greens were leading in the polls at one point

    The Greens are on track to be part of the next government based on tonight's results.

    For a brief period during the election campaign the Greens and their candidate, Annalena Baerbock, topped the opinion polls with 28%.

    For a party that had only once previously polled more than 10% in a national election (in 2009) these were dizzying heights and further proof that climate change had moved front and centre in German minds.

    The Green Party has been in government before as a junior partner, but never with this level of support. You might remember Joschka Fischer, the Greens’ leader who served as foreign minister and vice-chancellor from 1998-2005 under Germany’s last centre-left leader Gerhard Schröder.

  8. Social Democrat win would be 'an absolute revival'

    Katarina Barley

    With the centre-left Social Democrats (SDP) on course for a narrow victory, members have been reflecting on what a win would mean for the party, which hasn't led a German government since 2005.

    Katarina Barley, a senior European Parliament member with the SDP, told the BBC that it would amount to "absolute revival."

    "Yes of course, we would have liked to be in front more clearly, but I'm sure that this will evolve through the evening," Ms Barley said.

    She suggested that more was achievable on issues like climate change in a coalition which did not feature the conservative CDU/CSU alliance.

    "When it comes to climate change, there is not much you can do. [Conservatives] oppose nearly everything, and you see it in the states also where the conservatives are in coalitions with the Greens - nothing moves," said Ms Barley.

    "So if we get out of this coalition with the conservatives, I think we will see a lot of progress when it comes to climate change," she added.

  9. Kinder surprise

    Armin Laschet points to a young boy during his visit to a boxing camp
    Image caption: Some children have given politicians a tough time on the campaign trail

    Kids can be cruel, especially to German politicians, it seems.

    Surprisingly, the toughest interviewers of the election campaign turned out to be children.

    First, there was the grilling of Tino Chrupalla, one of the lead candidates for the far-right AfD party. He said wanted more German poems taught in schools but, when asked to name one, couldn’t do so.

    “My favourite poem is... I can’t think of any,” he said, after a long and painful pause.

    Then there was the child interrogation of the three main chancellor candidates in a toy-filled tent.

    When quizzed about his “unhealthy” smoking habit, a flustered Armin Laschet replied: “Yes, that’s right but so many things are unhealthy. But I don’t really inhale.”

    Youngsters gave Olaf Scholz and Annelena Baerbock a rough ride too. Scholz was asked to explain why the German government hadn’t done more to stop migrants from drowning en route to Europe, while Baerbock faced a bruising question about allegations she inflated her achievements on her CV.

  10. Is CDU suffering a crisis of leadership?

    Dr Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck

    Professor of political science at the University of Mannheim

    Armin Laschet
    Image caption: Armin Laschet has taken a battering in media coverage of his campaign

    The CDU’s dramatic shift in the polls from quiet erosion into something more reminiscent of an implosion can be attributed to a – partly self-induced – leadership crisis.

    The party can thank the unshakeable popularity of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel for a significant portion of its remaining support in recent years. The boots her successor is supposed to fill are very large indeed, and there are doubts over whether Armin Laschet has the necessary stature for this monumental task.

    The challenges, criticism, and backstabbing from within his own party, even before his nomination, were not exactly helpful.

    His media image quickly crystallised into one of a candidate of dubious competence in matters of policy and limited ability as a campaigner, but with a great talent for gaffes.

    In media coverage, everything Laschet came up with was interpreted as a tactical stunt, hastily thought up in a desperate attempt to keep the ship from sinking.

    Of course, this kind of news coverage can only further undermine the candidate’s credibility among voters. For Laschet, it appeared impossible to escape this narrative.

  11. Bleak mood among conservative supporters

    Sira Thierij

    BBC News, Berlin

    Angela Merkel’s conservatives are heading for a historically low result in Germany's election, with latest projections coming in at just above 24%.

    “We’re disappointed”, says Peter, a CDU member in Berlin. “We’re confident that we’re still in the game for forming a government. But we thought we would be above 30%.”

    Image caption: Eva believes not enough emphasis was put on the party's policies

    Eva, another CDU supporter, tells me these elections were more about choosing individual candidates than party programmes. "I think that is what put us off.”

    Members still found a reason to cheer at a local election party tonight: “There was no majority for the leftist parties and that’s a good thing, I think," says Johannes.

    A coalition between the Social Democrats, Greens and the far left will be impossible if projected results are borne out.

  12. Which coalition combinations are possible?

    While the results are still trickling in, we know that it's likely that more than two political parties will be needed to form a majority in Germany's next parliament.

    That's because - even if they do get just enough seats to form a majority together - the two main parties, the SPD and the CDU/CSU, are not at all keen to continue to work together in coalition, as they have been doing for the past four years.

    The SPD looks to be in pole position to lead the next government, as it is currently projected to win the largest share of the vote nationally, albeit by a slim margin.

    Let’s walk you through some of the coalition combinations that are possible, based on preliminary results.

    Each combination is given a nickname based on the traditional colours of each party.

    • The “traffic light” coalition would see the SPD partner with the Greens and the liberal FDP
    • A “Jamaica” coalition would see the conservative CDU/CSU alliance team up with the FDP and the Greens

    It's worth noting that the “red-red-green” coalition does not seem possible at this point, because the left-wing Die Linke party is not projected to win enough votes to enter the Bundestag.

    And the far-right AfD are unpalatable to all the other parties - so they won't feature in any coalition at the federal level.

    Coalition combinations

    The two other coalition possibilities shown above would have enough seats to govern - but are unlikely as they both require the conservatives and the centre-left SPD to team up (with the addition of a third party). And as we've said, that prospect is unappealing to the two big "people's parties", as they're known in Germany.

  13. Conservatives lose Merkel's former constituency

    Chancellor Angela Merkel

    We're just hearing that the conservative CDU has lost the constituency of Chancellor Angela Merkel - who's standing down as an MP at this election - in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state.

    The centre-left SPD has won the seat in the far north-east of the country.

    Mrs Merkel has held the constituency since 1990, so this victory for the centre-left marks a major shift.

    We'll bring you further results from across the country as we get them.

  14. Where do the main parties stand on the economy?

    Here's a quick look at the three biggest parties' plans for the German economy, should they be in government after today's vote.

    The conservative CDU/CSU have promised no tax increases and tight public finances.They want Germany to return to a balanced budget after debt ticked up during the pandemic.

    The SPD wants to build 100,000 new social housing annually, a minimum wage of €12 (£10; $14) an hour, and a wealth tax of 1% to address inequality.

    The Greens also want to raise the hourly minimum wage to €12, and bump the top tax rate from the current 42% to 48%.

  15. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Votes Green)

    A party's underway at the Greens' election event in Berlin - as supporters celebrate the party's best-ever parliamentary election results.

    Greens celebrate election result
    Greens celebrate election result
    Green member dancing in green clothes

    The BBC's Damien McGuinness is there...

    View more on twitter
  16. Who did young voters back in German election?

    Two parties appear to have cornered the under-30s vote in this election, according to initial projections.

    The Greens and the liberal FDP between them appear to have polled over 40% of younger voters.


    The FDP and Greens look like they're potential kingmakers in the upcoming coalition talks, whichever of the two biggest parties ends up with the most seats in parliament.

    What's perhaps surprising is that the Social Democrats didn't do quite as well with younger voters.

  17. Far-right party performs well in eastern states

    Far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party top candidate Alice Weidel
    Image caption: Far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) top candidate Alice Weidel said her party had done well

    The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is on course to win the largest share of the vote in the eastern state of Saxony, according to preliminary results.

    So far, the party has won more than 28% of second votes (which show voters' party preference) in the state, well ahead of the SPD with 19%.

    The AfD has also performed well in the neighbouring state of Thuringia, with 24% of the second votes (slightly ahead of the SPD on 23%).

    In recent years the AfD has tended to do well in eastern Germany.

    The AfD has managed to woo voters from the centre-right and even the centre-left with its emphasis on Islam and migration. Those issues have galvanised some voters, especially men with nationalist attitudes.

    But on a national level, the party's share of the vote in this election is projected to be lower than the last one in 2017, when it received almost 13%.

    Earlier Alice Weidel, one of the party's top candidates, said considering the negative media treatment of the AfD, the party had done well.

    "We are in the double figures, we have been able to assert ourselves," she said.

    All the other parties likely to be represented in the Bundestag have long ruled out forming a coalition with the AfD.

  18. 'This has been a climate election'

    BBC World Service

    "We have made climate change the number one issue in this election, it's been a climate election and that's a victory for the Greens".

    That's the verdict of Daniel Freund, a German member of the European Parliament for the Greens.

    On climate policy he told the BBC World Service: "It is important that we get into action now, that we start shutting off the coal power plants very soon, we will then increase measures as we go".

    Quote Message: I absolutely believe that Germany can abandon coal by 2023. It is absolutely crucial that we make this exit sooner than currently agreed from Daniel Freund Green MEP
    Daniel FreundGreen MEP
  19. Here's the latest from Germany

    Olaf Scholz and party co-leader Saskia Esken react after first exit polls for the general elections in Berlin, Germany, September 26, 2021.
    Image caption: Thumbs up for the SPD's Olaf Scholz

    It's just after 23:00 local time, and the centre-left Social Democrats look to be on course for a razor-thin victory in Germany's parliamentary elections - but they will need to form a coalition to build the next government.

    The party's candidate Olaf Scholz has said the country voted for change - and says voters want him to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor after 16 years.

    Even so, Armin Laschet, the candidate for Mrs Merkel's conservatives, has declared the outcome "unclear" and said he too wants to become Germany's new chancellor. But he acknowledged his party has plunged to a historic low.

    The progressive Greens appear to have made big gains, but not to have a viable shot at the chancellery. Along with the free-market Free Democrats, they look likely to play a key role in coalition talks.

    But with many more people voting by post than usual, it could be a while before we know the full outcome of the poll.

  20. Social Democrats start believing victory is in sight

    Nick Beake

    BBC News, SPD HQ in Berlin

    SPD headquarters

    We just tried to ask Olaf Scholz if he’s confident he’ll soon be dealing with Boris Johnson and other world leaders, but he was tight-lipped and his sizable security guards whisked him away.

    But latest projections have given the SPD a slight lead and, after several hours of relative quiet, they've decided it's safe to strike up the band.

    First up was Don’t Stop Believing and it seems the party faithful heading to the impromptu dancefloor are increasingly confident in their belief their man will lead the next coalition government.

    We hear the party leader has now gone for the night. As he slipped into the warm Berlin evening air, Message in a Bottle was blasting out.

    The young SPD party members think the German people have sent a message at the ballot box.