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Uncertain start to post-Merkel era after close German vote

Olaf Scholz (the candidate for the center-left Social Democrats) called for Merkel's centre-right Union bloc, which saw its worst ever result in a national elections, to be put into opposition. Both parties finished with less than 30% of the vote. This appeared to give two opposition parties the keys to power, raising doubts about the stability of any future government.

The Union's candidate for the presidency, Armin Laschet, refuted the notion that elections gave any party a mandate. He also stated that he still hopes and dreams to lead a new government. He sounded much less confident Monday than the day before, when he stated that his bloc would do "everything possible" to form one. Some allies suggested that skepticism would be present.

Germany will be led into a new era by the chancellor who is chosen. Merkel was the leader of Germany for 16 years, and she was also seen as Europe's leader. She helped steer the European Union through several financial and political crises while maintaining a high profile in the international arena. It is yet to be seen if the next chancellor will have the same global standing as her.

An uncertain result and a forthcoming French presidential election in April create uncertainty, at least for the moment, in the two economic or political power centers of the EU. This is just as the bloc struggles to deal with Russia and China, revamp its relationship and manage questions from eastern leaders about its future.

Scholz, the current vice-chancellor and finance minister, won his party's victory on Sunday after a long slump in polls. Laschet, North Rhine-Westphalia governor, made a few mistakes in a campaign filled with errors.

The kingmakers in any coalition are likely to be two junior partners, the Greens and the Free Democrats, who are both business-friendly. Although the Greens tend to favor the Social Democrats and the Free Democrats towards the Union, neither side has ruled out the possibility of going the other direction.

Scholz stated Monday that the voters have spoken clearly. "They strengthened three party -- the Social Democrats and the Greens -- so this is what the citizens have seen: These three parties should lead next government."

Laschet stated that his party wants to form a coalition with two smaller parties. A repeat of the Social Democrats and Union is the only alternative that could win a majority in parliament. This is the combination that has governed Germany for 12 years during Merkel's 16-year tenure. However, it has been marred by squabbling and there is no appetite for it now.

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