Donald Trump congratulates Angela Merkel on winning a fourth term

Merkel needs to negotiate first with the CSU before calling on the FDP and the Greens on a possible coalition

Dr Merkel's conservatives took 33 per cent of the votes, down 8.5 points from the 2013 election and plunging to its lowest level since 1949.

"I believe that the end of Angela Merkel's term began yesterday evening at 6 pm", said her Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Martin Schulz, referring to the time when the polls closed in Germany's national election on Sunday.

Merkel's conservative bloc remained the largest parliamentary bloc after Sunday's national election but bled support to the far-right.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she meant to hold talks with rival Social Democrats, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Germany's Greens to discuss options for a stable coalition government. "The governing parties and the Chancellor squandered the people's faith in them", it said.

The anti-migrant populist party came third with 12.6 per cent of the vote, well behind the centrist Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. And of course, the success of the AfD is troubling in itself, as the far-right party has a long history of rampant racism and xenophobia.

On Monday, the president of the German bishops' conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, cautioned against "black and white" thinking and warned the Bundestag not to allow MPs to use a "language of hatred and marginalisation".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and outgoing Labour Minister Andrea Nahles arrive at Bellevue Castle in Berlin September 28, 2017.

The surprise growth of the AfD is a new challenge for Merkel, who is now seeing backlash from her "generous policy" of welcoming an estimated 200,000 Syrian refugees into the country, which has made her a target for nationalist anti-immigration groups.

Fund managers at Schroders said that, given the uncertainty over the formation of a German coalition, achieving deep European reforms looks likely to have become more complex.

Alexander Gauland is one of the AfD's leaders - and now one of its MPs.

"We will carefully analyse the results because we like to win AfD voters back by looking at their concerns and especially by making good policies". The deputy leader of another potential small coalition partner party, Wolfgang Kubicki of the liberal FDP, said they would not form a coalition "at any price" and would fight hard for their goals. The real news coming out of that contest wasn't the overall victor, but rather the shifts in support for the rest of the players and the shrinking of Merkel's ruling coalition.

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