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German exit polls show Merkel retains office

  • Story Highlights
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel defeats her foreign minister, exit polls indicate
  • "This is a bitter defeat," says challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier
  • Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union got 33.7% of vote, TV reports
  • Steinmeier's center-left Social Democrats received 23.4 percent, network says
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BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel defeated her foreign minister Sunday to win another four-year term, according to exit polls reported by German television network NTV.

Center-left Social Democrat leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier votes in Berlin on Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, vote Sunday in Berlin.

NTV reported Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party received 33.7 percent of the vote, based on exit poll projections.

The polls show Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's center-left Social Democrats received 23.4 percent, the network reported.

"Not only are you happy, I am very happy as well," Merkel told cheering supporters at her headquarters. "We've accomplished something great. We've done it. We've reached our election goal, to retain a stable majority in Germany and a new government with a new coalition."

The crowd chanted, "Angie, Angie, Angie."

Steinmeier, meanwhile, conceded what he called "a bitter defeat" for the Social Democrats.

"The voters have decided, and the result is a bad day," Steinmeier said in a speech to supporters.

He thanked those who helped lead his campaign and those who supported him.

The two parties currently are in a coalition, with Steinmeier as foreign minister.

Few doubted that Merkel's party would receive the most votes. The question was what kind of coalition will be formed -- another broad centrist one, across the political divide, or a more right-leaning one.

Merkel favors cutting taxes to spur growth, while Steinmeier opposes tax breaks. The country is deep in debt. Video What's at stake in the German election »

Voters chose members of the lower house of parliament, or Bundestag, who will pick the head of government.

Each German had two votes -- one for a member of parliament representing a district and another for a political party.

The election Sunday followed release of a threatening videos from al Qaeda and the Taliban warning Germans not to vote for leaders who want to keep the country's troops in Afghanistan.

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Security was tightened at airports and train stations, and authorities on Saturday banned all flights over the Oktoberfest beer festival until it ends on October 4. The annual event attracts about 6 million people.

About 62 million people were eligible to vote, out of Germany's population of 82 million.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen contributed to this report.

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