Angela Merkel has been voted in as Germany’s chancellor for the fourth time, almost six months since the last elections bringing to an end the longest power hiatus in the country’s postwar history.
She received 364 out of 709 votes in the first round of voting in parliament – 11 more than required to gain an absolute majority, but also 35 fewer than if all the members of her next governing coalition had cast their ballot in her favour.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, who have agreed to re-enter 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 husband, Joachim Sauer, and long-term adviser Beate Baumann.
After Merkel’s re-election 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 24 September, 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 reformation of grand coalition means the far-right Alternative für Deutschland becomes the large opposition party in the Bundestag.