The main opposition Social Democrats on Sunday polled 43.2 percent of the vote to 43.0 percent for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing conservatives.
However, the vote was deemed inconclusive because of the fragmentation of the three parties that merged late last year and other smaller parties. The result does not indicate an overall winner in a country that is split among varying social groups and left-leaning and right-leaning parties.
In the last election in 2013, the Social Democrats took 41.6 percent and Merkel’s conservatives 43.2 percent. The ruling coalition of Social Democrats and the Free Democrats, a party considered socially liberal but at times socially conservative, has been in power for the past four years.
The Social Democrats won as much as 30.5 percent in polls this year.
Merkel will discuss the election results with her fellow top party leaders and discuss strategy on her third term in office, which will begin in March 2018.
“We will only know our fate in a few months, but we have a minimum goal at least,” Merkel said in a televised appearance shortly after the result. “The coalition talks that we will now have have to be the right one.”
The election came after a campaign where Merkel came under fire for leaving Germany’s borders open to 1.1 million refugees since the summer of 2015. While crime rates and extremist incidents rose, Merkel blamed Greece, not her government, for the lack of European Union controls that allowed migrants to travel north. She also faced criticism from within her own party for not improving German “values” and sustaining “relaxed” lifestyles.