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Support for Miss Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), fell to 38.5 per cent from 44.5 per cent in 2004, although they were still the strongest grouping, ARD and ZDF television exit polls showed.
The Social Democrats (SPD), who have shared power with Miss Merkel's conservatives since 2005, fell to 21 per cent from 21.5 per cent in 2004, according to the forecasts.
UPDATE AT 2156:
We have now had the result in East Renfrewshire. In Westminster terms, that's the seat of the Scottish secretary, Jim Murphy.
In tonight's poll in that area, the Conservatives have come first, the SNP second and Labour third.