Merkel 'heads for' new coalition
Chancellor Angela Merkel has been returned to power in Germany, exit polls suggest, after her conservative bloc won 33.5% of the vote.
Mrs Merkel's CDU/CSU may have enough seats to ditch her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners and form a centre-right alliance with the FDP.
She has said that the new alliance will get Europe's biggest economy out of its deepest crisis since World War II.
SPD leader Frank Walter Steinmeier admitted a "bitter defeat".
He said his party would be "vigilant in opposition".
The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Berlin says the result seems a disaster for the Social Democrats (SPD), who could have their lowest share of the vote since World War II.
The SPD have shared power with Mrs Merkel's bloc in an awkward grand coalition since the last elections in 2005.
Preliminary results are expected in the next few hours.
An exit poll for ZDF television gave the Social Democrats (SPD) 23.5% and the Free Democrats (FDP), Mrs Merkel's preferred partners, 14.5%.
This would give the centre-right alliance a narrow majority over the SPD and the two other major parties, the Greens and the Left, both of which increased their share of the vote.
"A black-yellow coalition looks set, we have reached our goal," said CDU general secretary Volker Kauder, quoted by AFP news agency.
Exit polls in Germany, Europe's largest economy and the biggest member of the European Union, are generally considered to be extremely reliable.
The campaign has been overshadowed by security concerns following a series of al-Qaeda messages warning Germany to pull some 4,200 troops out of Afghanistan.
Here the result (not the latest one, sorry, will update later)
ZDF TV EXIT POLL FIGURES
Left party: 13%
Green party: 10%