Marc Young - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 22:55:
That's it for our live coverage of the 2009 Bundestag election, we're sending our correspondents to scavenge what's left of the buffets. Thanks very much for stopping by and be sure to come back and visit us on Monday for more post-vote news and analysis.
Ben Knight - CDU election HQ, Berlin, 22:51:
A short note on security and organisation, since it was an issue this week, though if you ask me Al-Qaida were about as likely to bomb the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus, as the nougat dumplings were going to run out (I seriously underestimated the CDU on this score. I'm looking at a fresh tray of the little bastards right now.) When I came in, the guy doing the bag search said, "Please turn on your computer, until I see a loading screen." I took it out, and he said, "Oh forget it, it's a Mac. It'll take ages."
BUT - there is no coat-check room or place. I was forced to stuff my coat behind a screen. I hope it's still there, and hasn't been remotely destroyed or something. And the only internet access was a T-Online account. Luckily I had access to this thanks to a friend's password. So the CDU's score is low on security and blogging facilities. Still, those dumplings were nice.
Amanda Price - The Left election HQ, Berlin, 22:33:
POLKAHOLIX are already 15 minutes late to take the stage in the Kesselhaus of the Kulturbrauerei, and it seems the DJ is trying to warm up the (small) crowd with some classic rock. "We are on a mission of polka," the band's banner states. But it seems that very few are on the same page here as the party for Die Linke winds down.
Most attendees, including Left parliamentarian for Berlin Gesine Lötzch, are happy enough enjoying the warm(er) evening weather outside. When asked whether she was a polka fan, she told The Local that she'd be taking in the Kesselhaus show soon, but at the moment, she was celebrating a successful election result, both personally and for the Left party, with her team.
Finally the eight-man self-described polka-holics begun playing some accordion-heavy tunes, but there are no politicos to bust a move. In fact, more couples were dancing salsa-style across the courtyard at Soda Club. A Left-party supporter sitting on the bench next to me asks to use my laptop to check the results in Sachsen-Anhalt, his home. The result: "I'm happy. It's a marked increase this year," he says. Such seems to be the all-around consensus for those following Die Linke this year.
Ben Knight - CDU election HQ, Berlin, 22:27:
Just had a fascinating conversation with another young conservative, though this one with considerably healthier skin and a good, smart smell about him.
Here are his thoughts on the evening, in short form:
"This is our worst result since 1949. Pretty catastrophic. But it was mainly the fault of the Grand Coalition, and our voters just went over to the FDP."
"I would've preferred the SPD on 32 percent and the Linke on 3 percent than this. The SPD is going to be driven further and further to the left by the Linke now, totally weakening them as an option. The SPD says they want a minimum wage of €8, and the Linke says, well, we want€10, then the SPD, trying to compete, says, okay 10, then the Linke says well we want €12. In the Elephant Talk debate just now Lafontaine was just attacking Steinmeier at every opportunity. That's how it's going to be for the next four years."
"Maybe it was good that we had the Grand Coalition during the financial crisis. It gave us strength. I liked Peer Steinbrück (SPD finance minister, now out of job) a lot. He and Merkel made a really good impression at the G20 the other day."
"The Greens are going to have to think hard about who they are. Sooner or later, they are going to admit they are basically the same as the FDP. I'm from Cologne, you see them all the time, they drive around in Porsches and buy €2 Eco-bread."
"Merkel is going to be a lot more aggressive with her spending cuts now. There's going to be a clear shift to the right financially. And there is going to be a lot of criticism. When black-yellow cuts any spending, the opposition is much louder. If we had brought in Agenda 2010, there'd have been mayhem."
James Savage - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 22:04:
Here's a graph showing the results of ARD's 9pm exit poll, which should give a fairly good idea of how Germany has voted while we wait for official results:
Ben Knight - CDU election HQ, Berlin, 21:51:
The music's just kicked in at the CDU. The crowd is thinning out, people are visibly loosening. Somewhat surprisingly, it's a 70s and 80s cover band the CDU have gone for this year - the collected journalists were just regaled with "We Are Family".
Then, just as I was typing some boring guff about the Elephant Talk on the TV, Angie came back out, and this time she cut an even happier figure, right in front of the band. The delirious thought bubbled up that she was about to embark on "Unchain My Heart", and just as I was imagining her counting in the band, she just thanked everyone again, and said, "Now let ...really ... the party ... really... start!" She was not absolutely sure where to put the 'really'. Drunken chants of "Angie, Angie!" rang around the many floors of the atrium, and, once the chancellor had retreated a safe distance, the band launched into "Simply The Best".
Amanda Price - The Left election HQ, Berlin, 21:28:
"Lothar, what an evening," the announcer sighs as Mr. Bisky, one of the Left party's top-ranking officials, stands before the crowd for a second, albeit shorter, speech.
Party secretary Dietmar Bartsch is standing next to him with a bouquet of flowers in his hands. "You have to celebrate when you win!" Bartsch remarks.
After leaving the stage, Bisky tells The Local that he is "completely" content with tonight's result, which "hardly anyone expected." Bisky said he was especially proud of the strength his party showed in eastern Germany. When asked whether Die Linke might be ready to work with the SPD in a coalition on the national level in 2013, he remained sceptical. "If the SPD change," Bisky said. "They have to correct their mistakes."
David Wroe - SPD election HQ, Berlin, 21:27:
"There's light at the end of the tunnel," mused Henning Kreibohm, an Social Democrats member since 1966 who also sits on the board of a government environmental body. "But it's a long tunnel."
That summed up a large swathe of the mood as the Social Democrats' party headquarters began to wrap up. There was plenty of grim humour, plenty of resignation and a surprising amount of optimism that sometimes, it must be said, smacked of outright defiance.
A common theme was: the voters don't quite understand what they've brought upon themselves.
"I think it's the Free Democrats and the Christian Democrats who have the problems," said Wolfgang Müller, the senior economic adviser to the Social Democrats Parliamentary group. "Where are the Free Democrats going to get the 80 billion euros they've promised for tax cuts? Over the next four years, people will see what they've voted for. We'll see what privatisation brings. I think it'll be very interesting."
Mr Kreibohm put it a little more deftly: "We lost badly, but we lost honourably." The Social Democrats, he said, stuck to the tough welfare cuts and painful but necessary centrist policies that brought them unstuck, when they could have gone the populist route and lurched to the left. They ran a campaign that explained what they stood for, he said. Mr Kreibohm envisaged two or three terms in opposition but nevertheless insisted he was "optimistic", as was his wife Christa Kreibohm.
One thing they were all agreed on was that the Social Democrats simply could not work with The Left to get back into power. Asked what the alternatives were, adviser Müller said: "We will get back the left. Die Linke will be history without Lafontaine and Gysi. Germans are idealists but they want their government to function."
Nearby, an old man was talking to himself and people were steering themselves around him. He put down his glass of red wine and wandered off, whereupon a woman striding through the thinning crowed kicked it over, spilling wine in a long stream like blood from a wound. The furious woman looked up accusingly at everyone around her.
Kristen Allen - Green party election HQ, Berlin, 21:24:
As I finished my what was to be my last post, the most interesting event of the Greens' party went down – hard.
Down in the media centre the monitors re-animated. Was it the final results? No, it was a corpulent fellow who had stepped onto the stage. Some unwitting cameraman began filming just in time for everyone to witness a trembling, clearly intoxicated man in a green tie begin shouting unintelligibly about DEUTSCHLAND.
The cameraman cut out and the sound of the man's beer bottle exploding against the floor echoed through the building.
Moments later, several plainclothes security men (so there WAS security after all, though apparently not enough) hustled the breathless and disheveled man into the press centre and out the other side, apologising to irritated reporters.
That's what you get when your event is open to the public. Now everyone go home and sleep it off. It may be broken bottles tonight, but tomorrow it's coalition-building time.
Sabine Devins - FDP election HQ, Berlin, 21:24:
Despite Breidenbach's earlier words about reigning in government spending, there is no expense being spared at this party.
It seems like the FDP have some attractive young devotees. All over the party are young people who are wearing t-shirts saying "Make love, not tax returns". One would assume that they are members of the party's youth club, but they're not. They've been hired to look pretty at the party and convey the message.
"Normally, I would not have been invited to this party," said one man who asked not to be named. "Usually, I'm a student but I also have an agent. The party contacted my agent and I was hired to be here."
So, that leaves the party as a room full of journalists, politicians declining interviews because "they've given too many already" (says Silvanna Koch-Mehrin, candidate for Berlin) and middle-aged suits and what I can only hope are young German blue-bloods given their double-breasted suits with suspected brass buttons (a la Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl).
The people are still lined up at the bar as the servers struggle to keep up with the demand for the free wine, champagne and beer -- there's even a tequila bar.
The food is plenty and free. So far, I've enjoyed a piece of roasted chicken with beer bread (complete with lemon scented wipe to take care of my sticky fingers!), a spicy chicken ceaser salad, traditional German Bouletten with carrots, my Australian ice cream, brownies and a raspberry champagne cream dessert. The nougat seems to be isolated to the CDU party, but we do have plenty of cream puffs.
James Savage - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 21:04:
Public broadcaster ARD's latest exit poll at 9:00 pm:
CDU/CSU - 33.7 percent
SPD - 23.1 percent
FDP – 14.6 percent
The Left - 12.0 percent
Greens 10.6 percent
Amanda Price - The Left election HQ, Berlin, 21:02:
As Gregor Gysi emerges from Die Linke's election tent, having just concluded a second round of interviews, security is tight for those hoping to talk to the short politico. Outside near the Kulturbrauerei's Kesselhaus, the mood is more festive as revelers wait for POLKAHOLIX to strike up the band.
Loren Balhorn, 22, high-fives a fellow Die Linke supporter. "6 percent in Bavaria!" he says. Congratulations are in order for Balhorn, who has spent much of the past several weeks campaigning in Bavaria. The Wisconsin native applied for an internship with Die Linke. Today, he's a full-fledged party member, though as an American, he lacks the right to vote in Germany. But it's no surprise that Balhorn, wearing a "Make Capitalism History" T-shirt, identifies with the Left's stance on important issues. "There are lots of radical French groups, but they don't really get anywhere, so what's the point?" he says.
Balhorn also had the chance to participate in grassroots efforts in Berlin's neighborhood of Neukölln, where he says Die Linke conducted a "vibrant election campaign." At one point, the team hooked up a loudspeaker to a car that drove down Sonnenallee announcing the party platform. In front of the Kesselhaus, now supporters are in the mood to drink, be merry and celebrate the election-night results.
Kristen Allen - Green party election HQ, Berlin, 20:59:
While the mood at the Greens' party became more subdued as loyal supporters awaited final results, only a few headed home. Many camped out on the floor in front of screens. (Hippies do love their sit-ins.) Others engaged in mildly animated analysis.
While many said they were thrilled at the party's gains, often repeating the phrase “double digits,” one 27-year-old, who works for a Greens parliamentarian, but wished not to be named, said he was disappointed.
“The SPD lost about 10 percent, and we target the same set of voters but only gained 2 percent. That means the rest probably went to The Left,” he said.
“It's really disappointing that we're in fifth place for the second time in a row,” he said, attributing this to party in-fighting between two groups, the Realos, who are pragmatic about policy, and the old-school leftists, who resist compromise.
“This makes the policies too hard for regular voters to understand,” he said.
Sabine Devins - FDP election HQ, Berlin, 20:43:
Getting to work and "taking up the task that the voters have given us" seems to be the PR line the FDP has been told to spread.
General Secretary of the FDP, Dirk Niebel, just told reporters:
"This is a clear mandate from the voters to the party to work to get the freedoms back for the citizens of Germany. We now have to get straight to work to give citizens their rights and freedoms, as well as tackle the tax issue."
Meanwhile, a party supporter was keen for the FDP to take office.
"I want to see the tax issue dealt with. This needs to happen."
Ben Knight - CDU election HQ, Berlin, 20:18:
Just so you don't think I'm here to take the mickey, (though if I didn't report that the CDU's election party is being held in an extremely warm, overcrowded tent full of conservatives eating too many Magnums - I still haven't snagged one - I'd be failing my duties. This is not, as you might imagine, a buzzing hive of political debate, but basically a lot of rich Germans having their dinner) I've just had a lovely conversation with a group of Junge Union people - the CDU's youth organisation.
He and his friends were all wearing light blue t-shirts. He was a most personable chap called Simon from Baden-Württemberg. His main ambition to work at the Stuttgart stock exchange thwarted, he found a kindly wing at the state parliament down there. "It's not that hard campaigning for the CDU in the countryside around Baden-Württemberg. Most people agree with you."
Amanda Price - The Left election HQ, Berlin, 20:15:
With the big speeches over, the Left's election night soiree is starting to die down. Some supporters have positioned themselves near the line for Berliner Pilsner; others have left the tent for some fresh air.
Marko Tesch, 41, is part of the latter group. Tesch, wearing a red shirt with Left party leader Gregor Gysi's name plastered across the back, has been Die Linke's grassroots leader for the Treptow-Köpenick electoral district since 2007.
As a former member of the PDS, the socialist party formed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Tesch has been part of Germany's left-leaning political scene for two decades. Though he characterized the Left party's election-night results as "fantastic," he held more somber thoughts on what a coalition between CDU and FDP would mean for the country.
"It's bad for the country and its people," he said, insisting that the costs of the global economic crisis will continue to fall to the people themselves. Tesch expressed optimism for a government coalition between SPD, the Left and the Greens in 2013, but under one condition: "That [the SPD] learn from their mistakes."
As for Chancellor Merkel, Tesch said any hope that her status as a woman and a native of the former East Germany would influence her way of governing have been dashed. "These things weren't at all evident in her politics," he said, adding that she's like any other member of the CDU.
David Wroe - SPD election HQ, Berlin, 20:12:
A single cry rang out in the night. It came from somewhere among the thinning crowd of the covered outdoor walkway where Social Democrats supporters were gathering to drink and smoke. It was Der Schrei of Munch's painting. Everybody looked around to see who it was that had finally absorbed the news of the Social Democrats thumping defeat, but the tortured soul remained anonymous.
It was one of the few expressions of genuine emotion here tonight.
"I mean, people are of course shocked that it was THAT bad," said Thorsten Schubert, a political staffer for a Bundestag MP. "But really, we knew it was going to be bad. I guess we were just holding out hope that we would do okay."
The drinks were flowing steadily even before the results were through. Afterwards, they were jumping out of the bottles.
"We're pouring a lot of wine," said one of the young men at the bar with a grin.
People aren't much willing to talk about tomorrow, let alone the next four years.
"It's shit," said one man, who did not want to be named. "It's our worst result ever. What else is there to say?"
But when pushed, most seem to accept the brute reality of the situation.
"I suppose we will have to think about dealing with The Left Party," staffer Schubert said. "I'm a Social Democrat from the centre, so I have a big problem with that. I know that you can't win government without the centre. I really don't know how we're going to do it, but don't worry, we'll be back."
Schubert was going back to the office to see how the results look for his MP, though he knew she would be reelected. As for the rest of the crowd, including perhaps Munch's screamer, Schubert said: "I think there are quite a few parties going on around town for our people."
Kristen Allen - Green party election HQ, Berlin, 20:05:
The Greens' party sadly has no buffet, and no nougat as far as I can see. While I can smell bratwurst somewhere, I don't see any, and it's definitely not free – and neither is the beer. No flagrant waste of resources here, people!
The most dominant smell – ironically for the air-quality advocacy set – is cigarettes. Every available space on the balconies is jam-packed with smokers, and it wafts into the building above the heads of party leaders standing in front of television cameras.
Wading through the celebratory haze, I'm surprised to find a (naturally non-smoking) American professor from Indiana who has brought a group of international students to the party with The Global Institute for Leadership and Civic Development.
“The green party is really interesting as a dissenting entity,” he said. “In the US such a group wouldn't make it in politics.”
James Savage - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 20:00:
Official results could start coming in any time now, but meanwhile we have a new exit poll from ARD, released at 19:57:
CDU/CSU - 33.9 percent
SPD - 23.1 percent
FDP – 14.5 percent
The Left - 12.1 percent
Greens 10.5 percent
James Savage - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 19:50:
Public broadcaster ARD's latest exit poll at 7:40 pm:
CDU/CSU - 33.6 percent
SPD - 23.1 percent
FDP – 14.6 percent
The Left - 12.1 percent
Greens 10.5 percent
Kristen Allen - Green party election HQ, Berlin, 19:46:
Party co-chair Claudia Roth took to the stage with her male counterpart and party rock star Cem Özdemir (and his famous facial hair) to say a few words, both promising a tough fight against the new coalition.
“We've had a 25 percent increase,” she said. “This is a huge success.”
But Roth also said that the schwarz-gelb success was “bitter,” promising a “creative opposition” with “strong content.”
Meanwhile one of Roth's political aides, Claudia Striffler, 31, told The Local she supported the Greens because it's the only party that can see the big picture. She said the party's ability to combine employment and environmental goals was most important.
“This is the best result ever – double digits – and it's super,” Striffler said. “Now we have one-quarter more party members in parliament. Naturally we're not happy we couldn't prevent the schwarz-gelb coalition, though.”
James Savage - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 19:40:
Public broadcaster ZDF's latest exit poll at 7:00 pm:
CDU/CSU - 33.8 percent
SPD - 23.0 percent
FDP – 14.7 percent
The Left - 12.5 percent
Greens 10.0 percent
Sabine Devins - FDP election HQ, Berlin, 19:40:
Finally, the hero of the Free Democratic Party appears.
A beaming Guido Westerwelle, leader of the FDP and Merkel's next governing partner, basked in the audience's applause and cheers.
"We're thankful! We're grateful to all those who worked for the party, campaigning for the last weeks to give us the best results to date!" he said to the roaring crowd of suits. "But these results are more than just success for the party, they're a call to action that we have to answer."
Westerwelle thanked the voters, volunteers, colleagues and his personal team of assistants that all worked to get these results, promising that he will listen to the call to action his party has been given.
"We will celebrate our win, but we will not allow our heads to be inflated by these results. Instead, we will keep our feet firmly on the carpet as we get to work," he said, and the crowd roared again.
In answer to Ben Knight's call for ice cream, I'm eating handmade mango ice cream from Australia. I'm pretty sure I'm at the party with the best food.
Ben Knight - CDU election HQ, Berlin, 19:36:
A good many "awws" went through the crowd during Merkel's speech, which I observed from the back. This more or less sums up the attitude the CDU rank-and-file, and by extension, the entire German population has towards their leader. Sort of patronising, but loved. Even if, as many commentators reckon, they would prefer Friedrich Merz to lead their party, or some other bullish male with a confrontational style, they can't help but love her. And she's certainly relaxed into her role in this relationship over the years. She was cracking out the gags like a seasoned raconteur just then.
"I have to do some media stuff now. The people of Germany need to share this. But I'll probably pop by later." Laughter and cheers.
As for the dumpling situation - I hear you, Ceven, but these are the facts. The CDU guests are definitely eating a lot of nougat dumplings. In fact, I think there are only jam ones left.
Amanda Price - The Left election HQ, Berlin, 19:29:
It's the moment the crowd has been waiting for as the Left party's “big three”step up to make their speeches. Lothar Bisky, Gregor Gysi and Oskar Lafontaine, smiling as they look out onto an enthusiastic crowd, are greeted with the biggest applause of the night.
Bisky starts out by addressing what could be considered one of Die Linke's strongest finishes of the night – in the German state of Brandenburg. “I'm happy that it's 30 to 30 in Brandenburg,” Bisky says, referencing the near-tie between his party and the SPD. “We have a reason to celebrate tonight,” he says. “The Left is growing, and a Left that won double-digits has a chance to show what it can do.”
Bisky hands the microphone to party leader Gregor Gysi, sporting a red necktie. “I think we've lived through a historic event,” he says, claiming that the Left party has shaken up the whole of German society through its “fantastic” results in the 2009 vote. Gysi vowed that Die Linke would act as a “strong opposition” in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, and would work to support peace and social justice on a daily basis.
The bespectacled leader even had a few words of wisdom for the SPD, which achieved its worst election result in Germany's postwar history: “It makes no sense to serve as a second [CDU],” he says. As Oskar Lafontaine steps up to speak, he garners the most applause of the night. “This is a big day for the Left in Germany,” he tells the cheering crowd. “No one can deny that we're an established party now.”
As the trio concludes their set of speeches, all three are presented with a colorful set of flowers. Bisky, upon leaving the stage, throws his into the crowd.
David Wroe - SPD election HQ, Berlin, 19:24:
When the speeches were done, the analysis began. So far, the signs are the Social Democrats are taking it quite well.
Walter Momper, one of the party's elder statesmen and former Mayor of West Berlin who saw the city through the difficult reunification period, gave a generous assessment of the worst performance in the Social Democrats' history.
"Of course it's quite a bitter outcome, but the main reason is quite obvious," he told The Local. "The number one partner in a coalition has the advantage and its very difficult for the other partner to make clear what the differences are."
Angela Merkel, he said, had run a campaign that left Frank-Walter Steinmeier no room for a good old fashioned fight over the differences between the two parties.
"That was very successful," he said.
As to whether a party that scored 22.5 percent of the vote could really continue to call itself a Volkspartei (people's party), he said the Social Democrats were simply the victims of the "Europeanisation" of Germany's party system, with five parties now competing for the voters, compared with two or three in the past.
As for the future, he said: "It will be an interesting time for the party. If the new government goes back to nuclear power, that will be one point we can fight on. The reduction of taxes is another.
And will his party have to consider a reconciliation with the Left Party? "It's important to have alternatives and different patterns of possible coalitions," he said, as television cameras began to crowd in, demanding his commentary.
Was that a yes?
"It's a yes, but Die Linke will have to consider too what their policies are going to look like in four years. Four years is a long time."
Sabine Devins - FDP election HQ, Berlin, 19:15:
It looked for a minute like the blue stage was about to be occupied. The in-house cameras all started feeding the televisions stationed around the party to make sure every suit in the building could hear what the party was about to say. The crowd started chanting "Guido! Guido! Guido!" as they waited for the most successful FDP leader to date to take the stage.
Alas, this appears to be an impatient crowd, as the cheering, chanting and clapping stopped when no one answered their calls for a speech for 60 seconds.
Regardless, a table of champagne-drinkers clinked their glasses together and toasted "To Guido!"
Now, as Angela Merkel makes her speech, the FDP supporters listen quietly, except to cheer when their party's name gets mentioned as Merkel talks about her party's future years in the Reichstag.
As broadcasters moved to their coverage from the CDU, the crowd booed and in-house cameras returned focus to the stage in the main courtyard and the crowd begins cheering "Guido! Guido!" to the flashing blue and yellow lights in rockstar fashion...
David Wroe - SPD election HQ, Berlin, 19:11:
Stuck for much else to say, Frank-Walter Steinmeier thanked everybody. He thanked the campaign workers. Then he thanked them again. Then he thanked the young campaign workers and the ones that were out "fighting on the streets and in the marketplaces."
Then he thanked the voters -- the 22.5 percent that voted for his party.
But the crushing truth couldn't be ignored.
"It was a bitter day for the Social Democrats. And a bitter defeat," he conceded.
Intriguingly, Steinmeier said he had enjoyed the campaign, enjoyed being the candidate and added that he "would not flee that responsibility now".
Sebastian Lange, editor-in-chief of the journal Politik and Kommunikation, who was mixing with the Social Democrat crowd: "That could be a hint that he wants to run again."
Steinmeier was interrupted at one point in his 10-minute address by a full 90 seconds of applause, whistles and hoots. But in the echo-chamber Atrium of Willy Brandt House, it was a small number of people making all the noise. An awful lot of supporters were silent.
"I think he looks relieved," said Lange.
James Savage - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 19:08
Merkel has taken to the stage.
"I want to be the chancellor of all Germans," she said. "We've achieved something fantastic."
Ben Knight - CDU election HQ, Berlin, 19:05:
Is the CDU the only party this evening offering nougat-filled dumplings in the buffet? They are next to other dumplings filled with strawberry jam. To be honest, it's awful here. Overheated, people are stuffing their faces with sugar and greasy meat as if this was the last free meal they'd ever get.
A woman went round with a tray of Magnum ice creams and they were gone in about thirty seconds. I reckon about one Magnum went every 0.5 seconds. I didn't even get close! But I got my own back - I switched the little signs by the dumplings. The joy of watching right-wing people bite into a dumpling expecting jam and getting a tie full of hot nougat! That'll serve them right.
Some admission of defeat though: a serious, angular woman from the parliamentary faction said she was very disappointed with the 33 percent. "I wish people would see our economic competence, and not just attribute that to the FDP." The first sign of intra-coalition
Kristen Allen - Green party election HQ, Berlin, 18:57:
The Greens' two party leaders Jürgen Trittin and Renate Künast (the Greens always have both a male and female leader for their top positions) took to the stage before a cheering crowd after the exit poll results, promising their constituents to stand strong in opposition to the likely CDU-FDP coalition.
“We take these results as a work order,” a visibly flushed Künast told the crowd. “We will immediately fight for the closure of nuclear power stations.”
She added that the party would also fight for new jobs in the renewable energy sector.
After her speech, an initially glib Trittin transformed into a fist-pumping activist as his short speech concluded.
“There will be hard-as-nails opposition to the black-yellow coalition,” he said. “We have made terrific gains,” he raved, citing results in the state of Schleswig-Holstein that were double those of the last election.
Amanda Price - The Left election HQ, Berlin, 18:48:
Ulrich Maurer, a Left-party parliamentarian from Baden-Württemberg, steps up to the stage to give his comments on Die Linke's election-night results. The credit, he says, should be shared. “It's a success for everyone who's here this evening.”
Maurer said the Left's focus on political issues was what helped voters identify with the party. “The rest are wishy-washy,” he tells the crowd. Though Die Linke could be proud of its showing in western Germany, Maurer says, the Left was strongest in the eastern part of the country. “Unfortunately,” he says, Germany's future looks to be “black-yellow,” referencing the CDU's potential ability to form a new center-right government with the FDP.
Both Maurer and the crowd fall silent to watch the screens as SPD chancellor candidate Steinmeier addresses his supporters.
James Savage - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 18:38:
SPD leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier has conceded defeat in a speech to supporters in Berlin:
"This voters have decided. The results are bitter defeat for Social Democracy," said Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Merkel's SPD challenger for the chancellorship. "I'd like to thank the voters that supported us. Those votes were not in vain," he said.
Sabine Devins - FDP election HQ, Berlin, 18:34:
There was a moment of nervousness when the numbers for Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats flashed on the screen, but it was quickly erased when the dismal showing by the Social Democrats were broadcast. With the drop in nearly 11 percent, the only thing that cheered the FDP more than their opponent's defeat was their own victory. This year marks the party's best showing to date, with an increased share of five percent of the vote to capture 14.8 percent of the overall vote.
Rolf Breidenbach, the FDP chairman for the parliamentary group, was clearly elated by the results.
"It's the change that we've been waiting for," he told The Local minutes after the first results aired. "The people are giving us a clear mandate to tackle problems effecting German businesses, and therefore German people, like the tax situation. This means forming a government that doesn't just give out money, but makes it as well. In doing so, we can be sure that we can keep providing the funds for services for citizens."
With every rebroadcast of the numbers, the Suits cheer at the party's clear success as they likely head into a governing coalition with Angela Merkel and the Christian Democrat Party.
Ben Knight - CDU election HQ, Berlin, 18:31:
Loud calls of jubilation spread through this humid tent as those black bars slid up the screen. They were followed by after-ripples every time the SPD's abject humiliation was mentioned. No-one will admit their relief though. "It's just what I expected," an extremely tall, square-shouldered blond man from Osnabrück bellowed, and hugged his blond friends.
The elderly, well-represented tonight, gave a more measured, if perhaps a little batty, assessment - "Merkel is a physicist, after all. She has a good eye for the long term," mused a weathered campaigner from the Rhineland.
Amanda Price - The Left election HQ, Berlin, 18:23:
“I hope the SPD will pull it off,” a voice on ZDF says in the final minutes before the election prognosis is released at 6 p.m. The crowd laughs. Thirty seconds later, the two-minute countdown begins. Applause from the packed tent of supporters comes to a head as the television announcers forecast 13 percent of the parliamentary vote for the Left and 82 seats.
When the results from Schleswig-Holstein and Brandenburg are projected on the screen, the crowd continues cheering. Die Linke party secretary Dietmar Bartsch takes the stage. “We led an incredibly engaged campaign,” he says. “We were the 'social' strength.” Bartsch termed the 13-percent result a “huge success today. We celebrate today,” he says.
Of the Left party's showing in Brandenburg, which rivaled the SPD in terms of the proportion of the vote earned, Bartsch says the German state has “earned political change.” Overall, it seems both Left party leadership and supporters are satisfied with the result. “We're stronger than the Green Party," Bartsch says. The crowd responds with riotous applause.
Kristen Allen - Green party election HQ, Berlin, 18:20:
As broadcaster ARD rattled off the first exit poll results at 6 pm, Green party supporters held their breath. The crowd cheered at what was certainly a disappointing result for the conservative CDU, and then let out a collective “ooh” in sympathy for the SPD's pathetic results. And when the Greens 10.5 percent of the vote wiggled up the broadcaster's bar graph, the packed house roared.
The result is up more than 2 percent from the national election in 2005, when the environmentalist party garnered 8.1 percent of the vote.
Check back for more on how the Greens feel about what will likely be a Schwarz-gelb, or CDU-FDP coalition.
Kristen Allen - Green party election HQ, Berlin, 18:15:
Security was notably subtle as the relaxed Greens election party began filling up. Green-clad, bespectacled young hipsters ordered organic cola and beer while waiting for exit polls to air on large television screens around the hall. Only the Greens and the socialist party The Left keep their election parties open to the public.
“The tension is high and I really hope the results are in our favour,” Steffen Buchsteiner, a young Green party supporter told The Local.
David Wroe - SPD election HQ, Berlin, 18:14:
There was less lamentation and panic than there was a quiet resignation at the Social Democrats headquarters at Will Brandt House in central Berlin just before 6pm.
As rumours of exit polls, backed up by the first results on television, came through, the dense crowds kept sipping their beers and mumbling to one another.
"It's a disaster," said Michael Zirpel, a former candidate for the Social Democrats in the European Parliament. "It's looking as if the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats have a majority and that's going to put us in opposition."
Asked how he felt about it personally, Zirpel was philosophical. "If you're not convinced of your own policies, how can you convince others?" he asked, referring to the unpopular welfare cuts enacted by the Social Democrats under Gerhard Schröder.
But he added that Frank-Walter Steinmeier had run an "excellent campaign" and said he hoped he would run for party chairman and head of the Parliamentary group.
James Savage - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 18:08:
Broadcaster ZDF's exit poll also puts the CDU and FDP ahead:
CDU/CSU: 33.5 percent (down from 35.2 percent in 2005)
SPD: 23.5 percent (2005: 34.2 percent)
FDP: 14.5 percent (2005: 9.8 percent)
The Left: 13 percent (2005: 8.7)
Greens: 10 percent (2005: 8.1)
James Savage - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 18:00:
Public broadcaster ARD's exit poll:
CDU/CSU - 33.5 percent
SPD - 22.5 percent
FDP - 15 percent
The Left - 12.5 percent
Greens 10.5 percent
According to ARD's prognosis, the CDU and FDP have enough of an advantage to form a coalition government.
Amanda Price - The Left election HQ, Berlin, 17:54:
The tent at Prenzlauer Berg's Kulturbrauerei is nearly at full capacity as the Left's organizers take the stage before a massive red backdrop that announces the party's position: “Sozial,” “even after the vote.” Beneath red stage lights in Die Linke's signature color, announcers welcome a crowd both young and old.
“There are also a lot of young people here today,” the woman on stage remarks. Gregor Gysi is set to address supporters in less than an hour. “But for now, we're going to take a short break, because it's going to be a long night!” At 9:30 p.m., the real celebrating is set to get underway as the musical entertainment for the night, called “POLKAHOLIX,” takes the stage in the Kulturbrauerei's nearby Kesselhaus.
Sabine Devins - FDP election HQ, Berlin, 17:48:
Greetings from suit central.
The party colour may be yellow but the Römische Hof where the Free Democrats (FDP) are partying tonight is full of black suits, with the exception of one supporter in a full yellow skirt-suit with black details. Perhaps trying to soften their harsh, pro-business reputation by making their young, fresh-faced volunteers wear t-shirts in 1960s-motif saying: "Make Love, not tax returns." (Click here to see them.) The wine is already out and good old German food is being served from the buffet lines.
The coat rack is being filled while the journalists are already jockeying for position in front of the stage where we expect to hear the official reaction to the results after they come in at 6:00 pm.
Johannes Lehrer, who spent the last five weeks campaigning across the country for the FDP is here with his glass of champagne at the ready. "We're hoping that all of our efforts are going to pay off. Obviously, to me, the FDP is the best choice for the people here and for the future."
Amanda Price - The Left election HQ, Berlin, 17:34:
At first, there were more journalists present at the election party for far-left “Die Linke” than actual supporters of the party. But as it gets closer to 6 p.m., more and more voters are filing into the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauerberg, grabbing a beer stein full of Berliner Pilsner along the way.
Organizers expect hundreds of people to attend tonight's festivities, according to the Left's head of party development, Tanju Tügel. A native of Turkey, Tügel has lived in Berlin for 30 years and has been a member of the Left party since 1990. During this year's campaign, Tügel was highly involved in grassroots efforts. Then again, he says, it's not unusual: “The party is grassroots.”
With record low turnout expected for this year's vote, Tügel describes the Left's base as “very active” and “very enthusiastic.” Yet despite good participation by the party faithful, Tügel doesn't expect anything to change after the election. “Merkel will continue on as chancellor,” he sighed. But Steinmeier isn't much better. Tügel's verdict: “I don't like either of them.” He predicts Die Linke will have better prospects for coalition agreements on a state level. Speaking nationally, “Anything that's above 10 percent can be considered a big success.”
Ben Knight - CDU election HQ, Berlin, 17:30:
"This time the bullet cold rocked ya
A yellow ribbon instead of a swastika."
As a prophylactic to an evening with the most German of German parties, and their "Christian" democracy, I have been listening to Rage Against The Machine on my way here, and the opening of Bullet In The Head seems prescient. Around me, the room is packed with ill-fitting evening wear, stale perfume and side-partings. Welcome to the foyer of the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus in Tiergarten, where the Christian Democrat Union will probably celebrate the second term of Chancellor Angela Merkel. At the rate that Sekt and wheat beer is being guzzled here, it looks like she will get an uproarious upper middle class cheer, but the truth is this:
If the vaunted right-wing coalition with the pro-business libertarians, the Free Democrats does not happen, it will be "the beginning of the end for Merkel". Not my words, mind, the words of Der Spiegel news magazine. Another four years of partnership with squidgy-faced Steinmeier can only mean that the party - yes, those same moneyed people all around me, cheering her on with a large Pretzel in each hand this evening - will surely turn against her by the end of the next legislative period. Because they don't really like her.
Let's see how the black and yellow cookie crumbles.
Marc Young - The Local's election HQ, Berlin, 16:56:
Hello and welcome to The Local's coverage of the 2009 Bundestag election!
We'll be here all evening with news, interviews, insights and analysis. Our correspondents have fanned out across Berlin to the headquarters of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), the hard-line socialist party The Left (Die Linke), and the environmentalist Greens.
They'll be providing us with exclusive dispatches starting in the next few minutes. And, of course, everyone is waiting for the first exit polls at 6 pm German time.
Thanks for joining us!
Click your browser's refresh button for the latest updates.