Angela Merkel re-elected as German chancellor to fourth term after five months of political deadlock

Vote ends longest period Europe’s biggest economy has been without government in its post-war history

Tom Embury-Dennis
Wednesday 14 March 2018 10:02 GMT
Angela Merkel sworn in as German chancellor for fourth term

Angela Merkel has been re-elected by the German parliament to a fourth term as chancellor following months of political deadlock.

Lawmakers voted by 364 to 315 in favour of re-electing the 63-year-old after Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) decided last month to enter another coalition with Ms Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The two are joined by the CDU’s Bavaria-only sister party the Christian Social Union in another “grand coalition” which has 399 seats.

The same parties have governed for the past four years, but putting together the new coalition has been hard work. The Social Democrats initially planned to go into opposition.

Wednesday’s parliamentary vote comes 171 days after September’s election, in which all three parties lost significant ground.

The vote puts an end to five months of political uncertainty in Europe’s largest economy – the longest the country has been without a government in its post-war history.

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Ms Merkel will head a much-changed cabinet, with the governing parties – which are traditional rivals – keen to send signals of renewal. There are new faces in the most important posts: the finance, foreign, economy and interior ministries.

Ms Merkel was able to take office only after two-thirds of the Social Democrats’ members, by ballot, approved the coalition deal clinched last month.

At least 35 coalition politicians did not support Ms Merkel on Wednesday, though that was in line with results at the beginning of her two previous “grand coalitions” of Germany’s biggest parties.

She will have to hold together what is potentially her most fragile coalition yet, in what is widely expected to be her last term, while also addressing challenges such as a potential Europe-US trade war and seeking agreement with France and others on the future of a fractious European Union.

Thorsten Faas, a political science professor at Berlin’s Free University, said the coalition is likely to last until 2021 as scheduled and noted that the governing parties have demonstrated they can work together.

“A firm foundation, and I think this government has one, is important to be able to work in uncertain times,” Mr Faas told ZDF television. “So I think there is some reason for optimism.”

Additional reporting by PA

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