As per the results released by the German electoral commission, the Social Democrats (SPD) party has won the German federal election with over 25%.
The results released after processing data from all the districts say that the conservatives' bloc consisting of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) is second with 24.1%, Sputnik reported.
The Greens are third with 14.8%. Meanwhile, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) is fourth with 11.5%. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is fifth with 10.3%.
Merkel will stay on in a caretaker role until a successor is sworn in.
Germans went to the polls to elect the next parliament, which will appoint Merkel's successor. The make-up of the new government is not expected to be known immediately.
German voters cast ballots on Sunday for a new parliament that will decide the successor for Chancellor Angela Merkel, after her 16-year rule of Europe's largest economy.
What happens next
The defeat of Angela Merkel's center-right bloc has appeared to put Europe's biggest economy on course for lengthy haggling to form a new government.
Only one of the three candidates to succeed Merkel, who chose not to run for a fifth term, looked happy after Sunday's vote: the Social Democrats' Olaf Scholz, the outgoing vice chancellor and finance minister who pulled his party out of a years-long slump.
Scholz said the predicted results were "a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good, pragmatic government for Germany."
Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state who outmaneuvered a more popular rival to secure the nomination of Merkel's Union bloc, had struggled to motivate the party's base and suffered a series of missteps.
"Of course, this is a loss of votes that isn't pretty," Laschet said of results that looked set to undercut by a distance the Union's previous worst showing of 31% in 1949. But he added that with Merkel departing after 16 years in power, "no one had an incumbent bonus in this election." Laschet told supporters that "we will do everything we can to form a government under the Union's leadership, because Germany now needs a coalition for the future that modernizes our country."
Both Laschet and Scholz will be courting the same two parties. The Greens traditionally lean toward the Social Democrats and the Free Democrats toward the Union, but neither ruled out going the other way.
The other option was a repeat of the outgoing "grand coalition" of the Union and Social Democrats that has run Germany for 12 of Merkel's 16 years in power, but there was little obvious appetite for that after years of government squabbling.
"Everyone thinks that ... this grand coalition' isn't promising for the future, regardless of who is No. 1 and No. 2," Laschet said.
The Free Democrats' leader, Christian Lindner, appeared keen to govern, suggesting that his party and the Greens should make the first move.
"About 75% of Germans didn't vote for the next chancellor's party," Lindner said in a post-election debate with all parties' leaders on public broadcaster ZDF.
"So it might be advisable ... that the Greens and Free Democrats first speak to each other to structure everything that follows." Baerbock insisted that "the climate crisis ... is the leading issue of the next government, and that is for us the basis for any talks ... even if we aren't totally satisfied with our result." While the Greens improved their support from the last election in 2017, they had higher expectations for Sunday's vote.
In Merkel's footsteps
Merkel, who has won plaudits for steering Germany through several major crises, won't be an easy leader to follow. Her successor will have to oversee the country's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which Germany so far has weathered relatively well thanks to large rescue programs.
Germany's leading parties have significant differences when it comes to taxation and tackling climate change.
Foreign policy didn't feature much in the campaign, although the Greens favor a tougher stance toward China and Russia.
Whichever parties form the next German government, the Free Democrats' Lindner said it was "good news" that it would have a majority with centrist parties.
"All of those in Europe and beyond who were worried about Germany's stability can now see: Germany will be stable in any case," he said.