Public television ARD put support for Merkel’s conservative bloc CDU/CSU at 33 percent, down from 41.5 percent in the last federal election in 2013.
Despite a nearly 13-point lead over their Social Democrat rivals, Merkel’s conservatives failed to secure an outright majority in Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag.
Far-right AfD surges into parliament
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which took an anti-Islamic line during the election campaign, managed to get into the federal parliament for the first time.
Riding a sharp increase in voter support, it was projected to reach 13.3 percent, making it the third-largest political group in the Bundestag.
Four years ago, the AfD failed to pass the 5 percent threshold and was unable to enter the federal parliament.
Historic defeat for SPD
Merkel’s major rival in Sunday's election, Martin Schulz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), suffered its biggest defeat since 1949, as projections showed it with 20.8 percent.
Addressing a crowd of SPD supporters at party headquarters on Sunday night, Schulz said the Social Democrats would not enter a new “grand coalition” with Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
Schulz said that instead the SPD would assume the role of main opposition party.
Potential coalition partners
Merkel said before the elections that she was open to all possible coalition options, except a partnership with the far-right AfD or the socialist Left Party.
The liberal Free Democrats (FDP), one of the Christian Democrats’ potential coalition partners, managed to win 10.5 percent.
Another potential coalition partner, the environmentally minded Greens, were projected to reach 9.1 percent, up from 8.4 percent in federal elections in 2013.
The socialist Left Party also managed to slightly increase its support, reaching 8.7 percent.