Angela Merkel makes gains, history in German elections
BERLIN (CNN) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party appeared close to obtaining a super majority in Sunday's parliamentary elections, making it only the second time in the country's history that a ruling party has gained such political control.
Early returns showed Merkel's bloc -- the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavarian Social Union (CSU) -- with a slim 42.2% to 41.7% lead, according to exit polling by Germany's Forsa Institute and released by German broadcaster RTL Television. With those early results, Merkel's party was within two seats of obtaining a super majority.
Whether Merkel -- who is running in her third election -- obtains the coveted majority or not, the results appeared to validate her policies and leadership style as she has guided Germany through the Eurozone's economic crisis amid criticism that she has held back bailout help to struggling EU nations.
"This is a super result," Merkel said in remarks to supporters at CDU headquarters that were televised.
But she stopped short of declaring a super majority -- a majority greater than a simple majority of half-plus-one. "It's too early to say how we will proceed," she said. "But today we should celebrate."
It's a far cry from her first election in 2005, when Merkel's pre-election musings about tax increases went down badly with voters. She took office with a small plurality after her party was forced to build a coalition with her opponent's party, the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Merkel also took a hit in the 2009 elections amid German discontent over the country's role in Afghanistan.
The only hiccup of the night Sunday appeared to be for Merkel's junior coalition party, which appeared to be coming up short with 4.7% of the 5% needed to remain in parliament, according to RTL's Forsa exit polling.
If Merkel fails to pull a super majority, she will be forced to build a coalition with an opposition party.
Merkel's CDU consistently polled in the lead up to nationwide balloting between 40% and 42% -- a 10-year high for CDU -- while the SPD, her closest competitor, dipped at one point to a historic low of 23%.
The last time a party had a super majority in Germany was in 1957 with Konrad Adenauer, the country's first post-World War II chancellor.
Merkel is only the third post-war chancellor to win three successive elections.