25 September, 2017
Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office and her conservative bloc of the Christian Democratic Party and Bavarian-only Christian Social union has a healthy lead in the polls.
Merkel had campaigned on her record as a highly respected leader not only in Germany, but internationally as well as record low unemployment and strong economic growth.
Data released by German authority showed that as of 2:00 p.m. local time (1200 GMT), 41.1 percent of eligible voters cast their votes.
Meanwhile, she saw off one potential line of attack for more liberal parties by allowing a parliamentary vote in the summer to legalize gay marriage in Germany, though she herself voted against.
The outcome puts Merkel on course for a fourth term as chancellor - but means that she likely faces the tricky task of forming a new coalition government with two new partners.
The AfD's propulsion into parliament just four years into its existence gives the country its first far-right force on the national stage since 1961, and a faction with the most substantial presence of rightwing extremists since the Nazi era.
- Right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) wins its first seats in the federal parliament, also becoming the Bundestag's third power in the process. "We have entered the Bundestag and we will change this country", Gauland said.
Merkel, during her only televised debate during her campaign, said Germany must work with the U.S., on issues like ISIS and Afghanistan and that despite their differences on diplomacy, trade and climate change, she will do her best to find common ground with the American leader. That would be the worst result since World War II for the party, which has served since 2013 as the junior partner in a "grand coalition" of Germany's biggest parties under Merkel. "We will hunt Ms. Merkel".
Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has been harshly critical of Merkel and her decision to let in large numbers of migrants in the last two years.
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AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland vowed that "we will take our country back" and promised to "chase" Merkel.
Another big victor Sunday was the pro-business Free Democratic Party, which was set to return to parliament with some 10.5 per cent of the vote.
Merkel said before the elections that she was open to all possible coalition options, except a partnership with the far-right AfD or the socialist Left Party.
The traditionally left-leaning Greens were seen winning around 9.5 percent and the Left Party some 9 percent. Some supporters chanted "AfD!"
The party leader is former European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who had hoped to replace Merkel and ran on a social justice platform aimed at easing income disparity and improving social benefits and education.
In the runup to the election, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports German voters were inundated with campaign posters, including ones from the anti-Muslim AfD party with the blunt slogan: "Burkas?"
"We want to win back AfD voters by solving problems, by taking account of their concerns and fears, and above all with good policies", Merkel added.
Without the SPD, Merkel's only straightforward path to a majority in parliament would be a three-way tie-up with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, known as a " Jamaica" coalition because the black, yellow and green colours of the three parties match the Jamaican flag.
The Left Party is incompatible with the conservatives and all have voted not to work with AfD. This will grant the party its first ever seats in the federal parliament since its formation in 2013.