As expected Merkel will lead the next Bundesregierung (federal government). What came as quite a surprise is that she almost could have done it without a coalition partner, since neither the liberal FDP (her former coalition partner) nor the AfD, the euro-sceptical party, managed to jump the 5 percent hurdle to get into Bundestag, which reduced the percentage needed to get the absolute majority in the next Bundestag to around 42 percent. Merkel's CDU/CSU Union got 41.5 percent. An improvement of 7.7 percent over the result of 2009. A excellent result for the party, but overall the next Bundestag is definitely not what Merkel wanted.
Which coalition can be expected and what might happen in the next four years?
The Union will now start talking to both the Greens and the SPD in order to form the next government. The next coalition will most likely be a so called grand coalition of Union and the social democrat SPD. It is the only coalition favored by the voters. So, even though a so called red-red-green coalition of SPD, DIE LINKE, and Greens would also have a majority it will not happen. A red green minority government tolerated by DIE LINKE has also been ruled out, which leaves the ball in Merkel's court. So we will see some discussion and in the end we will most likely see a coalition with over 75 percent of the seats in the Bundestag. This is of course fairly terrible for democracy, since this coalition could change the constitution at will (67% needed). The only real opposition will come from the small parties in the second chamber the Bundesrat (Federal Council), where the state governments are represented, which can prevent such changes.
But, the election result is actually bad for Merkel, too. In the next Bundestag there will be a looming center-left majority. It seems quite likely that at some point the SPD will decide that this is in fact a feasible coalition, and then we could see a SPD chancellor after all. The AfD and the FDP both finishing slightly below the 5 percent hurdle might just become the worst case scenario for Merkel.
Even though ordo-liberal economic policy was clearly preferred by a majority of the electorate, the vote was divided extremely unfavorable, 51 percent (Union+FDP+AfD) of the voters chose this doctrine, but it will not have a majority in the Bundestag. Merkel is in a very peculiar position. Yes, even the voters of other parties favored her as the next chancellor, but she will have to fear the sword of Damocles in the form of the LINKE looking more and more like a possible coalition partner for the SPD in the next two years. At the moment the SPD is saying that they rule out a coalition with LINKE for the whole four year term.
So yes, the Union can be very happy with their own result but the other two parties just barely failing to make it into the next Bundestag turns this election into a looming catastrophe for Merkel, who might just not be chancellor for four more years.