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Germans return "Red-Green" coalition by a whisker

Germans return "Red-Green" coalition to power by a whisker

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's coalition of Social Democrats and Greens appear to have clung to power, but with a severely reduced majority.

Projections on Germany’s ARD and ZDF television channels both give Schroeder's SPD and Edmund Stoiber's conservatives the CDU/CSU 38.5 percent of the vote. But though Schroeder's own party lost ground to the conservatives his mandate was rescued by the resurgence of his Greens coalition partners.

The Greens, with 8.6 percent, did significantly better than the potential conservative coalition partners the Free Democrats, who took just 7.4 percent. All other parties failed to make the five percent threshold needed to be represented in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament.

Final forecasts early Monday morning showed Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democratic government coalition with the Greens winning Germany's federal elections by a hair.

Political analysts and journalists have called it the "election mystery". The extraordinarily tight German parliament race was even compared to the last presidential race in the U.S., where the outcome was held up for nearly a month. But in the end, forecasts predicted victory for the SPD and the Greens.

Deutsche Welle reports that the Red-Green win will see German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s party, the Social Democrats, set to gain 38.5 percent, the Greens 8.6 percent of the seats in Germany’s parliament and the liberal Free Democrats winning 7.4 percent. The Party of Social Democracy, the successor party to eastern Germany's former communists, failed to enter parliament, gaining a mere four percent of the vote.

Schröder claims victory

After learning of their apparent victory, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Foreign Minster Joschka Fischer appeared before supporters and pledged to begin negotiations to continue the Social Democrats-Greens coalition for another four years.

Meanwhile, Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber, who gave Schröder a serious run for his money and led in the polls for most of the past six months had difficulty conceding defeat. He said the red-green government would fail within a year due to its slim majority.

"I ensure you that within a year I'll be able to build a new government," Stoiber said.

But it was the Greens who had the most to cheer about. The party pulled off a coup few would have expected only months ago, when the party lagged in polls with as little as five percent. With a projected 8.6 percent, the Greens were already celebrating what appeared to be significant gains over their 1998 outcome.

"We’re incredibly happy -- incredibly!" Greens chairwoman Claudia Roth said of the party’s apparent 1.9 percent gain over its 1998 result.

Voter turnout sinks

Turnout in Sunday’s election was markedly lower this year, with only 77 percent of eligible voters turning up to cast their ballots -- a 5.2 percent drop from 1998.

In 1998, the Social Democrats won 40.9 percent of the votes, with the Greens then gaining 6.7 percent of the seats in parliament. The CDU/CSU, meanwhile, got 35.2 percent and the FDP won 4 percent.

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