Germans voted in a national election on Sunday with Angela Merkel favourite to win a new mandate to drag Europe’s top economy out of recession and as the country agonises over its role in Afghanistan.
Final polls indicated the conservative Merkel was near certain to secure four more years as chancellor, but her hopes of forming a new centre-right coalition with a business-friendly party hung by a thread.
Heightened security after warnings from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other Islamist militants over Germany’s increasingly bloody mission in Afghanistan also cast a shadow over voting.
Merkel wants to dump the Social Democrats (SPD), her current “grand coalition” partners, for an alliance with the Free Democrats (FDP) that she says is needed to pull Germany out of its worst downturn in 60 years.
But her Christian Democrat party’s lead has fallen in the final weeks of the campaign. A Forsa survey on Friday put her preferred coalition on 47 per cent of the vote, which experts say may not be enough to form a government.
The most likely alternative would be another grand coalition.
Nevertheless, Merkel, the world’s most powerful women according to Forbes, said she was confident of putting together the alliance she wants.