Angela Merkel has been confirmed as Germany’s chancellor for the fourth time, right around a half year since the national race, conveying to an end the longest power break in the nation’s after war history.
She got 364 out of 709 votes in the first round of voting – 11 more than required to pick up an outright lion’s share, yet in addition 35 less than if every one of the individuals from her next administering coalition had thrown their ballot to support her.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, who have agreed to reenter a grand coalition together, have a total of 399 votes between them.
“A clear vote and a smooth start”, tweeted Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new general secretary of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. “Now full steam ahead for Germany”.
As the chancellor received standing ovations, handshakes and bouquets of flowers from delegates across the political spectrum, she was watched over by her 89-year-old mother Herlind Kasner, seated on the Bundestag’s gallery next to Merkel’s long-term adviser Beate Baumann and husband Joachim Sauer.
After Merkel’s reelection she will immediately travel to Schloss Bellevue to receive a letter of appointment by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, before heading back to the Bundestag in order to take the oath of office. Later in the day, the new government ministers are also expected to be sworn in before the cabinet meets for the first time this afternoon.
The pressure will be on the new government to immediately get down to business, after months of horse-trading and delayed decision-making. Merkel said on Monday her new government’s focus would be on integrating refugees as well as increasing state powers to extradite people who had no right of residence. She has also stressed the necessity of securing Germany’s borders, and developing policies to mitigate the causes of migration.
The grand coalition was initially seen as an unlikely constellation after the election on September 24, when Merkel’s conservative alliance, the pro-business FDP and the environmentalist Greens strove to create a so-called ‘Jamaica’ coalition. But after those talks collapsed spectacularly, both the conservatives and the SPD came under pressure to revive the grand coalition, which has governed Germany for the majority of Merkel’s time in office.
Wolfgang Kubicki, deputy leader of the pro-business Free Democrats, said of the result of Wednesday vote: “That was closer than we expected. It shows that the grand coalition is actually going to be a small coalition”.
The grand coalition will put the far-right Alternative für Deutschland in the position of the largest opposition in the Bundestag.