BERLIN (Reuters) - Angela Merkel's conservatives won the most votes in a German election on Sunday, putting her on track for a third term, but it was unclear whether she would be able to preserve her centre-right coalition or be forced to work with her leftist rivals, an exit poll showed.
An exit poll from public broadcaster ARD showed Chancellor Merkel's conservative bloc - the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) -- on 42 percent, their strongest score since 1990.
But the exit polls did not give a clear indication of whether her Free Democrat (FDP) allies, on 4.7 percent, would make it back into parliament. A new euroskeptic party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), was hovering at 4.9 percent -- a whisper below the 5 percent threshold for winning seats.
Support for the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) stood at 26 percent, the environmentalist Greens were on 8 percent and the hardline Left party was at 8.5 percent.
If the FDP fails to get into the Bundestag, then Merkel will almost certainly have to enter coalition talks with the SPD, with whom she ruled between 2005 and 2009. Negotiations could last months and a new government could adopt more leftist policies like a minimum wage and tax hikes for top earners.
(Reporting by Noah Barkin, Stephen Brown and Madeline Chambers)