As anticipated, Angela Merkel’s party came in first in the German national election on Sunday, assuring her of a fourth term as chancellor. That much was foreordained, even if Ms. Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats and their Bavarian allies came in slightly below expectations, with roughly a third of the vote.Ms. Merkel’s bland slogan — “For a Germany where life is good and we enjoy it” — summed up a campaign that promised to continue the reassuring blend of moderation, stability, dignity and determined centrism that “Mutti” (mommy) has steadfastly pursued in an era of extremist politics. It was reassuring, too, for the outside world, in which the chancellor has provided consistent leadership in European integration, compassion toward refugees, liberal democracy and Western values. But in a country where coalition governments are the norm, voting is only the start of a process that can take months before a government emerges. Here Ms. Merkel faces a formidable challenge.For starters, for the first time in German post-World War II history, a far-right, anti-Muslim, anti-European Union party — the Alternative for Germany — garnered enough votes, more than 13 percent, to enter Parliament. That in itself is not surprising at a time when populist parties have made gains across Europe and in the United States. But the emergence of a nationalist party, one of whose leaders thinks Germans should be proud of their soldiers in both world wars, has been a source of distress.
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