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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

German Chancellor Merkel Starts Her Third Term

Berlin (AFP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel was sworn in Tuesday for a third term at the helm of Europe’s top economy, ending nearly three months of post-election limbo while she bartered with rivals to forge a “grand coalition”.

Merkel, 59, will lead for another four-year term after being overwhelmingly approved in the job by the Bundestag lower house of parliament where her new left-right coalition has a huge majority.

“I accept the election result and thank you for your trust,” she said, dressed in a black trouser suit, having accepted a bunch of flowers and before shaking the hands of supporters.

Eighty-six days after Merkel’s conservatives swept to victory with 41.5 percent of the vote in September elections but narrowly failed to grab an outright majority, the Bundestag ballot outcome came as no surprise.

Merkel secured a “yes” vote from more than 74 percent of the 621 deputies who voted in the secret ballot, or 462 votes, while 150 voted against her becoming chancellor and nine abstained.

After her previous junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats, for the first time failed to win any parliamentary seats in the September 22 elections, Merkel was forced to seek out a new government tie-up.

After weeks of cajoling an initially reluctant centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian CSU sister party and the SPD hammered out a deal at the end of November to enter a political marriage of convenience.

And with 504 of the 631 Bundestag seats, the new government now commands a huge majority — the biggest for nearly half a century — though the path ahead is expected to be bumpy.

Parliamentarians began the vote by standing for a short memorial to South African peace icon Nelson Mandela who died this month, as Bundestag president Norbert Lammert paid tribute to his example in fighting racism.

Merkel went to the palace of President Joachim Gauck to be confirmed in the post and returned to the Bundestag to be formally sworn in as Germany’s only third post-war chancellor to win a third mandate.

Raising her right hand, she took the oath of office and, smiling, received a standing ovation from deputies before taking the first seat on the new government bench.

After her ministers were also to be sworn in, Merkel’s cabinet was set to meet for the first time, enabling the chancellor to finally get back to business in earnest after the longest government-building period since World War II.