Chancellor Angela Merkel may have to govern with a far less stable coalition in a fractured parliament after a surging far-right made gains.

CDU party leader and incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference at the CDU party headquarters a day after the general election in Berlin, Germany. September 25, 2017.
CDU party leader and incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference at the CDU party headquarters a day after the general election in Berlin, Germany. September 25, 2017. (Reuters)

Germany is heading into months of uncertainty while Chancellor Angela Merkel embarks on a complex process trying to build a coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, an alliance untested at the national level.

Merkel won a fourth term on Sunday although support for her conservatives slumped to the lowest since 1949 and voters turned to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in response to the migrant crisis.

"We will start discussions both with the FDP and the Greens but let me add, also with the Social Democrats (SPD) because I believe it's important that Germany gets a stable, good government. I heard what the SPD said (to go into opposition). Yet we should stay in contact," Merkel said.

"I will, of course, start discussions with the CSU and I keep being optimistic that we will find solutions. We will act together, there is no question about it."

TRT World's Francis Collings has more from Berlin.

'Eternal chancellor'

After 12 years in power and running on a promise of stability and economic strength, Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc scored 33 percent, according to final results, against 20.5 percent for the Social Democrats under challenger Martin Schulz, who pledged to go into the opposition.

The election marked a breakthrough for the AfD, which with 12.6 percent became the third-strongest party and vowed to "go after" Merkel over her migrant and refugee policy.

'Nightmare victory'

The entry of around 90 hard-right nationalist MPs to the glass-domed Bundestag chamber breaks a taboo in post-World War II Germany.

"A nightmare victory for Merkel," said Germany's top-selling daily Bild.

"The governing parties and the chancellor squandered the people's faith in them."

Merkel had no one but herself to blame for the bruising she got from voters, said the weekly Der Spiegel.

"Angela Merkel deserved this defeat," the magazine's Dirk Kurbjuweit wrote, accusing her of running an "uninspired" campaign and "largely ignoring the challenges posed by the right."

Political scientist Suzanne Schuettemeyer of the University of Halle in eastern Germany said despite it remaining an opposition party, the AfD's presence in parliament would harm Germany's image abroad.

"It's Germany and it will change the way we are perceived, because AfD will speak a language that we thought we had overcome, that was outside of our political consensus," she told AFP.

'Excessively feisty'

"We will take our country back," vowed the AfD's jubilant Alexander Gauland, who has recently urged Germans to be proud of their war veterans and said a government official who is of Turkish origin should be "dumped in Anatolia."

While joyful supporters of the AfD – a party with links to the far-right French National Front and Britain's UKIP – sang the German anthem at a Berlin club late Sunday, hundreds of protesters shouted: "Nazis out!"

But just hours after its triumph, the party's long-simmering infighting between radical and more moderate forces spilled out into the open at a dramatic morning news conference.

AfD co-leader Frauke Petry stunned her colleagues by saying she would not join the party's parliamentary group and would serve as an independent MP.

She then abruptly left the room in a move Gauland criticised as "excessively feisty."

TRT World’s Sarah Morice reports from Berlin and Jack Parrock explains the latest from Brussels.

Coalition talks

While Germany still digests the rise of the right-wingers, Merkel's inner circle was preparing for what could be protracted coalition talks with smaller parties.

All other political parties have ruled out working with the AfD, whose leaders call Merkel a "traitor" for allowing in more than one million asylum seekers since the height of the refugee influx in 2015.

Merkel vowed to put together a reliable alliance, insisting late Sunday that "the stability of German governments is of the utmost value."

Speaking on public television, she appealed "to all sides to take their responsibilities seriously."

But the leader of her Bavarian CSU allies, Horst Seehofer, a vocal critic of Merkel's asylum policy, called the poll outcome a "bitter disappointment" and vowed to close the "open flank" on the right before state elections next year.

Merkel must now find a new junior partner after SPD declared they would go into opposition, to recover the support they lost while governing in Merkel's shadow.

Jamaica coalition

This will likely force Merkel to team up with two smaller – and very different – parties to form a line-up dubbed the "Jamaica coalition" because the three parties' colours match those of the Caribbean country's flag.

One is the pro-business FDP, which scored a 10.7-percent comeback after crashing out of parliament four years ago.

The other is the left-leaning, ecologist Green party, which won 8.9 percent on campaign pledges to drive forward the country's clean energy transition.

Conditions for coalition

The FDP's leader Christian Lindner has pointed to new "red lines," voicing scepticism especially on French President Emmanuel Macron's plans for a single eurozone budget, which Merkel has cautiously greeted.

The Greens, meanwhile, sharply differs with the FDP and CSU on key issues from immigration to the environment, pushing to expand wind farms, phase out coal and take to task car makers over the "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal.

The Green party said on Monday that one of its main conditions for participating in any future coalition government will be ensuring that Europe's biggest economy fulfils its obligations as part of the Paris climate accord.

Cem Ozdemir, co-leader of the Greens, told a news conference the party would focus on climate change, Europe and social justice in coalition talks with Merkel after Sunday's federal election.

Taking aim at the FDP, who campaigned against deeper European integration as proposed by Macron, Ozdemir said Europe would not solve its problems with austerity policies alone.

He added Germany had a "vital interest" in France and Macron succeeding with reforms.

FDP set the stage for tough coalition talks with Merkel's conservatives and the Greens, saying they would not agree to a deal that did not promise a change in the German government's direction.

"It is not up to us to form a 'Jamaica coalition' at any price," deputy party leader Wolfgang Kubicki told journalists on Monday.

FDP party leader Christian Lindner said that changes were needed in Germany's energy policy and its stance on eurozone fiscal policy. 

Merkel says she will have a government by Christmas.

International reaction

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged Merkel on Monday to form a strong coalition government that could help shape Europe's future after her re-election.

In a published letter, also read out by EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas at a news conference in Brussels, Juncker wrote that Europe needs a stable German government "now more than ever" as it would "actively help shape our continent."

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Germany's election results was a lesson for the EU and reiterated that the time was coming for parting ways with the bloc if they continued to stall Ankara.
The chairman of the Turkish community in Germany, Atila Karaborklu, said AfD's entry into the Bundestag would deepen rifts in the society and spark conflict.

"The genie is out of the bottle at the moment. Racism in Germany has been given a face: the AfD," Karaborklu said.

Turkey, whose relations with Germany have soured in recent months, would take two steps to normalise bilateral relations if Germany took one step, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a television interview on Monday.

Some London residents, although buoyed up by the victory of Merkel in the German election, expressed their concern on Monday over the rise of the far-right AfD.

Source: AFP