Germany's Social Democrats narrowly won Sunday's national election, projected results showed, and claimed a clear mandate to lead a government for the first time since 2005 and to end 16 years of conservative-led rule under Angela Merkel.

Iran PressEurope: The center-left Social Democrats (SPD) were on track for 26.0 percent of the vote, ahead of 24.5 percent for Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative bloc, projections for German broadcaster ZDF showed, but both groups believed they could lead the next government.

According to German media, with neither major bloc commanding a majority, and both reluctant to repeat their awkward “grand coalition” of the past four years, the most likely outcome is a three-way alliance led by either the Social Democrats or Merkel’s conservatives.

Agreeing to decide on a new coalition could take months, and will likely involve the smaller Greens and liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

We are ahead in all the surveys now,” the Social Democrats’ chancellor candidate, Olaf Scholz said in a round table discussion with other candidates after the vote.

Scholz, 63, would become the fourth post-war SPD chancellor after Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt, and Gerhard Schroeder. Finance minister in Merkel’s cabinet, he is a former mayor of Hamburg. 219