Merkel bloc wins election but faces far-right challenge

James Stewart starred as Jefferson Smith in the 1939 Academy Award-winning film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

The conservative union led by German sitting Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday defended its dominant role in Bundestag (German parliament) with 32.5 percent of the vote, according to preliminary exit poll.

"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.

That combination - known as a "Jamaica" coalition because the parties' colours match those of that Caribbean nation's flag - will have to overcome the traditional distrust between both the Free Democrats and the Greens and between parts of Merkel's conservative bloc and the Greens.

Germany in particular is coping with the arrival of more than 1 million refugees and other new migrants, with tension with Russian Federation since Moscow's incursions into Ukraine, and with doubt about Europe's future since Britain voted to quit the EU.

During a post-election party leaders' discussion on ARD, Merkel said she noted SPD leader Martin Schulz's opposition to a new grand coalition.

The traditionally left-leaning Greens were seen winning around 9.5 percent and the Left Party some 9 percent.

"This is a big day in our party's history".

"This is a hard and bitter day for German social democracy", a grim-faced Schulz, a former European Parliament chief, told reporters, adding that he hoped to remain party leader.

AfD's co-leader Alexander Gauland vowed Sunday that the party would "change this country", promising to pursue Germany's established parties.

Big cheers went up at AfD's election party after exit polls showed them finishing in third place.

Supporters gathered at the party headquarters in Berlin cried out with joy as public television reported the outcome, many joining in a chorus of the German national anthem.

Merkel, 63, whose campaign events were regularly disrupted by jeering AfD supporters, said in her final stump speech in the southern city of Munich that "the future of Germany will definitely not be built with whistles and hollers".

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which took an anti-immigration and anti-Islamic line during the election campaign, managed to get into the federal parliament for the first time.

If the Social Democrats stick to their pledge, Merkel will effectively have only one option to form her new government: teaming up with the Free Democrats and the Greens in an alliance that has never yet been tried in a national German government.

The other parties elected to the Bundestag all refuse to work with the AfD, which says it will press for Merkel to be " severely punished" for opening the door to refugees and migrants. Schulz announced that he will not partner in another grand coalition and thathis party will go into opposition.

The AfD is expected to hold some 87 seats in parliament. But she observed that her party has been in power for the past dozen years, the last four of which have been "extremely challenging".

"It is particularly important that we close this flank with. clear political positions", he said.

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