German Chancellor Angela Merkel, bruised by half a year of post-election coalition haggling, was Wednesday elected by parliament to her fourth and likely final term at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy.
Lawmakers in Berlin’s glass-domed Reichstag voted 364-315 with nine abstentions for Merkel who was then to be formally appointed by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before taking the oath of office at 1100 GMT.
Merkel, wearing a white blazer, said “I accept the vote” and beamed happily as applause filled the Bundestag chamber, where her scientist husband Joachim Sauer and her 89-year-old mother Herlind Kasner were among the well-wishers.
For the veteran leader, the ceremony marked the end of a painful stretch of post-election paralysis, the deepest crisis of her 12-year career.
A right-wing populist rise in September elections weakened all mainstream parties and deprived Merkel of a majority, forcing her into another unhappy alliance with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).
The grand coalition, mockingly dubbed a “GroKo” in German, didn’t start as a “love marriage”, her designated vice chancellor and finance minister, the SPD’s Olaf Scholz, drily observed this week.
All coalition partners have nonetheless sought to allay fears that their marriage of convenience could break up mid-term, insisting they plan to jointly govern until 2021.
From 1600 GMT, Merkel sits down with her new cabinet, in which the SPD has wrested both the trophy posts of finance and foreign affairs to the dismay of a growing band of critics within her Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
On Friday Merkel will head to Paris to discuss EU reform plans with French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of a March 22-23 summit, after a six-month stretch in which Berlin was hamstrung on the European and world stage.
Macron warned in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily that, without Germany on board, “part of my project would be doomed to failure”.
“We are completely dependent on each other. I do not believe for one second that a European project without or against Germany could succeed.”
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