BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s center-left Social Democrats and outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc are both laying claim to lead the country’s next government.

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That's despite projections on Sunday that show the long-time leader’s party heading for its worst-ever result in a national election.

Europe’s biggest economy appeared to be on course for lengthy haggling to form a new government.

A three-party governing coalition with environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats would provide the likeliest route to power for both leading parties.

Only one of three candidates to succeed Merkel looked happy: the Social Democrats’ Olaf Scholz, who pulled his party out of a years-long slump.

Merkel will stay on in a caretaker role until a successor is sworn in.

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