Weak­ened Merkel be­gins her 4th term be­set by chal­lenges

Putin wants to de­velop ties

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BER­LIN, March 14, (RTRS): Ger­man law­mak­ers voted on Wed­nes­day to re­elect An­gela Merkel as chan­cel­lor for a fourth, and likely fi­nal, term that may prove her most chal­leng­ing yet as she takes charge of a frag­ile coali­tion with her per­sonal stand­ing di­min­ished.

Law­mak­ers voted by 364 to 315, with nine ab­sten­tions, in favour of re­elect­ing Merkel, a hum­bling start as the coali­tion of her con­ser­va­tives and the cen­tre-left So­cial Democrats (SPD) has 399 votes in the Bun­destag lower house of par­lia­ment.

“I ac­cept the vote,” a beam­ing Merkel, 63, told law­mak­ers be­fore be­ing sworn in by Bun­destag Pres­i­dent Wolf­gang Schaeu­ble.

In of­fice since 2005, she has dom­i­nated Ger­many’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape and steered the Euro­pean Union through eco­nomic cri­sis.

But her au­thor­ity was dented by her de­ci­sion in 2015 to com­mit Ger­many to an open-door pol­icy on refugees, re­sult­ing in an in­flux of more than one mil­lion peo­ple that laid bare deep di­vi­sions within the EU over mi­gra­tion.

While also be­ing locked in a trade stand-off with the United States, Merkel must now jug­gle com­pet­ing do­mes­tic de­mands from within her coali­tion.

Her con­ser­va­tive CDU/CSU al­liance only turned to the SPD to pro­long the ‘grand coali­tion’ that has gov­erned Ger­many since 2013 out of des­per­a­tion, af­ter talks on a three-way al­liance with two smaller par­ties col­lapsed last Novem­ber.

Merkel’s spokesman said she would head to France on Fri­day to dis­cuss bi­lat­eral, Euro­pean and in­ter­na­tional top­ics with Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron.

On Tues­day, Merkel’s spokesman said she spoke by phone with Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and con­demned a nerve agent at­tack on an ex-Rus­sian spy in Eng­land for which May held Mos­cow re­spon­si­ble.

De­spite that, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin con­grat­u­lated Merkel on her re-elec­tion in a tele­gram and em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of fur­ther de­vel­op­ing bi­lat­eral ties, the Krem­lin said.

At home, the pres­sure is on both sides of the coali­tion to de­liver for their rank and file. Their deal in­cludes a clause that en­vis­ages a re­view of the gov­ern­ment’s progress af­ter two years, giv­ing each the op­por­tu­nity to pull out then if it is not work­ing for them.

Fault lines have emerged in the new gov­ern­ment even be­fore its first cab­i­net meet­ing, with ten­sions ev­i­dent over the se­quenc­ing and ex­tent of re­forms.

The SPD only agreed to ally with Merkel af­ter promis­ing a list of dis­tinc­tive poli­cies af­ter the last four years in coali­tion dam­aged its stand­ing among vot­ers.

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