On May 22nd 2005 as predicted the SPD took a devastating defeat in its former heartland, North Rhine-Westphalia. Half an hour after the election results, the SPD chairman Franz Müntefering announced that the chancellor would clear the way for premature federal elections by the means of a purposely lost vote of confidence. This took the republic by surprise, especially because the SPD was seen in polls below 25% at that time. On the following Monday the CDU announced Angela Merkel as conservative candidate for chancellorship, aspiring to be the first female chancellor in German history.
Whereas in May and June 2005 victory of the conservatives seemed highly likely, with some polls giving them an absolute majority, this picture changed shortly before the election at September 18, 2005, especially after the conservatives introduced Paul Kirchhof as potential minister of the treasury, and after a TV duel between Merkel and Schröder where many considered Schröder to have performed better.
New for the 2005 election was the alliance between the newly formed Electoral Alternative for Labor and Social Justice (WASG) and the PDS, planning to fuse into a common party (see Left Party.PDS). With the former SPD chairman Oskar Lafontaine for the WASG and Gregor Gysi for the PDS as prominent figures, this alliance soon found interest in the media and in the population. Polls in July saw them as high as 12 %.
After success in the state election for Saxony, the alliance between the far right parties National Democratic Party and Deutsche Volksunion (DVU), which planed to leapfrog the "five-percent hurdle" on a common party ticket was another media issue.
The election results of September 18, 2005 were surprising insofar as they differed widely from the polls of the previous weeks. The conservatives lost votes compared to 2002, reaching only 35%, and failed to get a majority for a "black-yellow" government of CDU/CSU and liberal FDP. The FDP polled a stunning 10 % of the votes, one of their best results ever. But the red-green coalition also failed to get a majority, with the SPD losing votes, but polling 34 % and the greens staying at 8 %. The left party alliance reached 8.7 % and entered the German Parliament, whereas the NPD only got 1.6 %.
The most likely outcome of coalition talks was a so-called "grand coalition" between the conservatives (CDU/CSU) and the social democrats (SPD), with the three smaller parties (liberals, greens and the left) in the opposition. Other possible coalitions include a "traffic light coalition" between SPD, FDP and Greens and a "Jamaica coalition" between CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens. Coalitions involving the Left Party have been ruled out by all parties (including the Left Party itself), although the combination of one of the major parties and any two small parties would mathematically have a majority. Of these combinations, only a red-red-green coalition is politically even imaginable. Both Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel announced that they had won the election and should become next chancellor.
On October 10th talks were held between Franz Müntefering, the SPD chairman, Gerhard Schröder, Angela Merkel and Edmund Stoiber, the CSU chairman. In the afternoon it was announced that the CDU/CSU and SPD will begin formal coalition negotiations with the aim of a Grand Coalition with Angela Merkel as the next German chancellor.
Angela Merkel is the first woman, the first East German and the first scientist to be chancellor as well as the youngest German chancellor ever. On November 22nd 2005 Angela Merkel was sworn in by president Horst Köhler for the office of Bundeskanzlerin.