Electoral officials in Germany say conservative leader Angela Merkel's party narrowly won the most votes in Sunday's parliamentary election, but the make-up of the next government remains unclear.

Official preliminary results give Ms. Merkel's Christian Democrats 35 percent of the vote while Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrat won 34 percent.

The results give Ms. Merkel's party 225 seats in parliament and the Social Democrats 222.  Both parties are far short of an absolute majority in parliament, which chooses the new chancellor.

Ms. Merkel says she will start forming the next government, but Mr. Schroeder says he believes he could still lead Germany for another four years.

Ms. Merkel may be forced to try and form a coalition with the Social Democrats.

German political analysts say that while voters wanted a change of government, they were apparently afraid of the effects Ms. Merkel's economic reforms would have on the welfare system.

Some information for this report provided by AP, Reuters.