Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Germany following the country's election on Sunday night, angry that a far-right party had gained seats in parliament for the first time.

Angela Merkel won a fourth term as Chancellor after her party gained the largest share of the votes, but she was left seriously damaged as she hemorrhaged millions of votes to fringe parties including the far-right AfD, according to Daily Mail.

The anti-immigrant party polled at 13.5 per cent, potentially winning them up to 90 seats in the Bundestag where they vowed to "go after Merkel" and "reclaim our country and our people."

Their success is the first time in 60 years that a far-right party has held such power at a national level.

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That surge prompted activists chanting anti-Nazi slogans and waving banners on to the streets of Berlin on Sunday night, where they surrounded the club being used by the AfD to celebrate their win.

More marchers were pictured in Frankfurt, holding a banner which read "Frankfurt hates the AfD".

The anti-immigration party had waged a virulent campaign against Mrs Merkel's decision to let in 1million refugees, some of whom have been implicated in rapes and terror attacks.

And their success is the first time in 60 years that the far-Right has garnered enough votes to secure such a show of strength in the Bundestag. The Greens said the shock result meant that the Nazis were in parliament again.

One report said that in parts of the former East Germany, the AfD had polled 45 per cent of the vote.

The AfD's strong showing could see them taking as many as 90 seats.

Mrs Merkel's coalition partner, the SPD, returned its smallest share of support post-war at 20 per cent, and announced it will not be rejoining Mrs Merkel in government.

Martin Schulz, leader of the SPD, said his party will go into opposition following the result, leaving Mrs Merkel to search elsewhere for support.

Having vowed not to work with the AfD, Mrs Merkel now faces the prospect of cobbling together a tricky three-way agreement involving the FDP and Greens.

Mr Schulz told despondent supporters: "Today is a difficult and bitter day for social democracy in Germany.

Demonstrators protest against the nationalist Alternative for Germany Party, AfD. Photo / AP
Demonstrators protest against the nationalist Alternative for Germany Party, AfD. Photo / AP

"Particularly pressing for us tonight is the strength of the AfD party. For the first time, with them, there will be a far-right party in the German Bundestag.

"The acceptance of one million migrants it was almost guaranteed to divide our country and it has divided us too much."

Mrs Merkel acknowledged as much in her own speech to party faithful, acknowledging that the last four years had been "extremely challenging".

She spoke of wanting to regain votes lost to the AfD and said "prosperity and security" will be at the centre of her thinking once a new government is formed.

"We need to work for a just and free country", she said "that of course means we need to bring together all of the European Union counties.

"That means we need to fight against the causes of migration and we need to find legal ways to fight against illegal migration."

Meanwhile Alexander Gauland, a top candidate of the AfD, vowed to "go after Merkel" saying his aim is to "reclaim our country and our people."

Alice Weide, another of the AfD's most prominent candidates, vowed that her part is "here to stay" during a victory speech on Sunday night.

She told supporters that the party's first move will be to establish a committee to look into "legal breaches" by Mrs Merkel's government.

Ms Weide also vowed to focus on content and political positions, and vowed to live up to the trust that voters have placed in the party.

Mrs Merkel said she had hoped for a "better result" and pledged to listen to the "concerns and anxieties" of AfD voters in order to win them back.

The result is also a blow for Theresa May, who had been banking on an emboldened Mrs Merkel helping her reach a good deal on Brexit.

Now it appears Mrs Merkel could be bogged down in coalition talks for weeks or even months - meaning she will have little time to bolster her British counterpart.

A worst-case scenario is that Mrs Merkel may now have to take an even harder line against the UK.

The German election is just the latest shock result to stun political observers, following last year's vote for Brexit, the election of President Trump and Mrs May's general election disaster in June.

Beatrix van Storch, one of the AfD's leaders, told the BBC the result was "a huge success ... it will change the political system in Germany, and it will give back a voice to the opposition".

Protests against the rise of AfD. Photo / AP
Protests against the rise of AfD. Photo / AP

She added: "We will start debates on migration, we will start debates on Islam, we will start debates on ever closer [European] union."

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was quick to congratulate the AfD after they made massive gains in the election.

Le Pen, who lost France's presidential election to Emmanuel Macron earlier this year, wrote on Twitter: "Bravo to our allies from AfD for this historic score! It's a new symbol of the awakening of the peoples of Europe."

Elswhere Jewish groups from around the world reacted to the news of the AfP's strong showing with dismay and concern.

German Central Council of Jews President Josef Schuster says the party, known by its German initials AfD, "tolerates far-right thoughts and agitates against minorities."

He said he expects Germany's other parties will "reveal the true face of the AfD and unmask their empty, populist promises."

The head of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, congratulated Chancellor Angela Merkel on securing a fourth term, calling her a "true friend of Israel and the Jewish people." He denounced the AfD as "a disgraceful reactionary movement which recalls the worst of Germany's past."

The election was fought on the tense backdrop of surging support for far left and far right parties across Europe.

Germany in particular is coping with the arrival of more than 1 million refugees and other new migrants, with tension with Russia since Moscow's incursions into Ukraine, and with doubt about Europe's future since Britain voted to quit the EU.

After shock election results last year, from the Brexit vote to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, leaders of Europe's establishment have looked to Merkel to rally the liberal Western order.

But after acting as an anchor of stability in Europe and beyond, she now faces an unstable situation at home as she must now form a coalition, an arduous process that could take months.

Immediately after the release of exit polls, the deputy party leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in a "grand coalition" with Merkel's conservatives for the last four years, said her party would now go into opposition.

"For us, the grand coalition ends today," Manuela Schwesig told ZDF broadcaster. "For us it's clear that we'll go into opposition as demanded by the voter."

Without the SPD, Merkel's only straightforward path to a majority in parliament would be a three-way tie-up with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, known as a "Jamaica" coalition because the black, yellow and green colours of the three parties match the Jamaican flag.

Such an arrangement is untested at the national level in Germany and widely seen as inherently unstable. Both the FDP and the Greens have played down the prospect of a three-way coalition, but neither won enough seats on Sunday to give Merkel a majority on its own.

Frauke Petry (right) co-leader of the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, on her way to cast her vote in the German election. Photo / AP
Frauke Petry (right) co-leader of the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, on her way to cast her vote in the German election. Photo / AP

Whatever the make-up of her coalition, Merkel, 63, faces four years of government in a fragmented parliament after the return of the FDP - unrepresented at national level for the last four years - and the arrival of the AfD.

Founded in 2013 by an anti-euro group of academics, the AfD has surged as an anti-immigrant group in the wake of Merkel's 2015 decision to leave German borders open to over 1 million migrants, most of them fleeing war in the Middle East.

The party's entry into the national parliament heralds the beginning of a new era in German politics that will see more robust debate and a departure from the steady, consensus-based approach that has marked the post-war period.

The other parties elected to the Bundestag all refuse to work with the AfD, which says it will press for Merkel to be "severely punished" for opening the door to refugees and migrants.

After the AfD hurt her conservatives in regional elections last year, Merkel, a pastor's daughter who grew up in Communist East Germany, wondered if she should run for re-election.

But with the migrant issue under control this year, she threw herself into a punishing campaign schedule.

Despite losing support, Merkel, Europe's longest serving leader, will join the late Helmut Kohl, her mentor who reunified Germany, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany's rebirth after World War Two, as the only post-war chancellors to win four national elections.

She has campaigned on her record as chancellor for 12 years, emphasizing the country's record-low unemployment, strong economic growth, balanced budget and growing international importance.

That's helped keep her conservative bloc well atop the polls ahead of Sunday's election over the center-left Social Democrats of challenger Martin Schulz.