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Exit poll: Merkel party strongest in German vote

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, chairwoman of the Christian Democratic party CDU, leaves her voting booth to cast her vote in Berlin, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. 62 million voters in Germany are entitled to elect a new parliament as Merkel runs for her third term as chancellor. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN (AP) -- An exit poll indicates that Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have emerged by far the strongest force in Germany's election, though it's unclear whether her coalition partners will stay in parliament.

The ARD television exit poll put support for Merkel's Union bloc at 42 percent. But it put her coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, on 4.7 percent — just below the minimum to keep their seats.

Challenger Peer Steinbrueck's Social Democrats won 26 percent and the Greens 8 percent, according to the exit poll. The hard-line Left Party won 8.5 percent.

The survey showed a new anti-euro party with 4.9 percent — uncertain of winning seats.

If Merkel's coalition lacks a majority, the likeliest outcome is an alliance with the Social Democrats.