Germany’s Social Democratic Party narrowly won the national election held in the country on Sunday against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, The Guardian reported.

The centre-left Social Democratic Party has won 25.7% of the popular vote, while the centre-right Christian Democratic Union party fell to a historic low of 24.1%, the newspaper quoted the federal election agency as saying.

The Greens constituted the third-largest party with 14.8% of the vote, and the party secured its best result ever in a national election. The liberal Free Democratic Party came in on fourth place with 11.5% votes. The far-right Alternative for Germany, AfD, got 10.3% of the popular vote.

Merkel, who has been the German chancellor for 16 years, had announced before the election that she will not seek a fifth term. However, she will continue to hold the post until a coalition for the next government is formed. Such a coalition may not be formed until Christmas, according to the BBC.

The Social Democrats’ candidate Olaf Scholz said that the result was “a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good, pragmatic government for Germany”, AP reported.

“Many citizens have put their crosses next to the SPD [Social Democratic Party] because they want there to be a change in government and also because they want the next chancellor of this country to be called Olaf Scholz,” he said, according to CNN.

Since 2018, Scholz has served as the vice-chancellor and the finance minister in Merkel’s coalition government. He had been at the forefront of navigating the country’s economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the Union bloc, led by Merkel, said it will contact smaller parties to discuss the formation of a government.

Armin Laschet, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union, said that the loss of votes in this election “isn’t pretty”. But he told supporters, “...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 modernises our country,” AP reported.

Annalena Baerbock, leader of the Greens Party, said that the climate crisis will be the leading issue for the next government, and “that is for us the basis for any talks ... even if we aren’t totally satisfied with our result.”

In a first, two transgender MPs will enter the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, The Guardian reported. Both the MPs, Tessa Ganserer and Nyke Slawik, are from the Green Party.

Among the possible coalitions that could head the next government is an alliance of the SPD, the FDP and the Greens Party, reports said. Another possible coalition is between the CDU, the FDP and the Greens Party.

Based on party colours, the first of these has been identified as the “traffic light coalition”, while the second has been identified as the “Jamaica coalition”, according to the BBC.

FDP leader Christian Lindner noted that neither the SPD nor the CDU got more than 25% to 26% of the popular vote, Reuters reported.

“So 75% of Germans didn’t vote for the party that will provide the next chancellor,” he said “Perhaps the Greens and the FDP should talk to each other first.”

“The biggest policy overlap is between the conservative bloc and the FDP,” he added. “For us, the ideas of tax hikes, of softening the debt brake are not acceptable.”