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Merkel, Schroeder both claim election victory
Updated: 2005-09-19 06:50

BERLIN - Voters plunged Germany into political limbo on Sunday, splitting their ballots between Angela Merkel's conservatives and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) so evenly that both claimed victory. Reuters reported.

Conservative challenger Angela Merkel, leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leaves a studio after a television debate in Berlin September 18, 2005. [Reuters]
Projections at 11:15 p.m. (2115 GMT) gave Merkel's conservatives a two- to three-seat advantage over Schroeder's SPD -- far short of the number she needed to form a governing coalition with her preferred partner, the liberal FDP.

The neck-and-neck result, which no pre-election polls had predicted, is likely to bring many weeks of political uncertainty, which could weigh on financial markets.

"Germany faces difficult times because the formation of a new government will be tough," said Thomas Straubhaar, head of the Hamburg-based HWWA economic research institute. "Whatever emerges will be comparatively unstable."

The most likely outcome appeared to be a so-called "grand coalition" between Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), their sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the SPD.

But neither Merkel, 51, nor a defiant Schroeder, 61, seemed prepared for the compromise and cooperation necessary to link up with each other in an alliance that would normally put the strongest party's candidate in the chancellery.

Projections gave Merkel's conservatives the biggest share of the vote at around 35.1 percent; the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) who they had wanted to link up with around 10 percent; Schroeder's SPD around 34.2 percent, their partners the Greens 8.2 percent and the new Left Party around 8.6 percent.
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