The Christian Democrat (CDU) chancellor plans to seek a third term in 2013, but will almost certainly be forced to find an alternative partner to the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) who languish at just 4% in national polls after a record 14.6% showing at the last national election in 2009.
Exit polls showed the CDU win 35% of the vote while its main rival, the Social Democrats (SPD), was winning about 31%. Saarland, one of Germany’s smallest states, with just 1 million inhabitants, borders France.
The most likely outcome is a “grand coalition” government of the two broadly centrist parties – a result which could be a harbinger of the outcome of next year’s federal election.
The local leaders of both the SPD and CDU expressed confidence ahead of the vote that they would be the larger party and get to lead coalition talks, although both have said they would like to work together.