Merkel Victorious In Germany's National Election

Angela Merkel won a fourth term as chancellor in Germany elections that lifted the far-right party Alternative for Germany into parliament for the first time since the immediate aftermath World War II, according to exit polls that point to growing polarization in Europe's biggest economy.

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.

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.

The chancellor made it clear that she would prefer to not form a minority government, at a time of major global and domestic challenges. The polls also suggested that the anti-migrant, nationalist AfD party will enter the national parliament - for the first time - with 13 to 13.5 percent support.

But in a bombshell for the German establishment, the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) captured around 13 percent, catapulting it to become the country's third biggest political force.

"A year and a half ago, people were talking about her exit-and here we are", Carsten Nickel, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in Brussels, said in an interview.

Calling the AfD a "party of agitators" and "the enemies", Schulz said his Social Democrats were the best option to fight them.

Merkel's main centre-left rivals, the Social Democrats, slid to their worst result since the Second World War, projections showed.

After shock election results previous year, from the Brexit vote to the election of US President Donald Trump, leaders of Europe's establishment have looked to Merkel to rally the liberal Western order.

Three’s a crowd AfD’s Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel with the soon-to-exit Petry
Three’s a crowd AfD’s Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel with the soon-to-exit Petry

The 63-year-old Merkel saw a decline in her approval ratings over the past two years, mainly due to a decision at the beginning of 2015 to allow hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany. Apart from the challenge of the AfD, the task ahead is "first and foremost to ensure economic prosperity" and "to hold the European Union together and build a strong Europe", she said.

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. But she observed that her party has been in power for the past dozen years, the last four of which have been "extremely challenging".

The traditionally left-leaning Greens were seen winning around 9 per cent of the vote and the Left Party also 9 per cent, meaning both stay in parliament.

Crowds of people have in the meantime gathered in front of the AfD HQ in Berlin, carrying banners reading "Racism kills" and chanting "Go away".

"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.

The result offers Merkel two possible routes to govern: The first is to add the environmentalist Greens to a coalition with the Free Democrats, her party's traditional allies with whom she governed from 2009 to 2013, in a so-called Jamaica coalition - so named as the party colors match those of the country's flag.

"We have suffered a crushing election defeat", Schulz said.

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.

Mainstream parties' leaders vowed a robust response to AfD's entry into parliament.