“It is a loss of votes, which is not good,” he conceded. “We’ve seen a situation where for the first time in 16 years of Angela Merkel, the chancellor hasn’t run for office. Nobody had the raise of being in office.”
The results were damaging for Mr Laschet, who threw away an early rule in the campaign and may now confront moves from within his party to oust him as leader.
“I will discuss what needs to be done when the time has come,” he told German television when asked about his future.
SPD supporters were jubilant after projections expected meaningful gains for the party, whose chances had been written off by most observers until a few months ago.
“We are ahead, so we have the mandate to form a government,” said Lars Klingbeil, the SPD general secretary.
It was a personal vindication for Mr Scholz, who was rejected as SPD leader two years ago only to be recalled to run for chancellor, and who seemingly single-handedly turned around the party’s fortunes.
Click: See details