Sworn in for fourth term, Merkel has a lot on her plate

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

GER­MAN law­mak­ers voted 364-315 yes­ter­day to re-elect An­gela Merkel as chan­cel­lor for a fourth term that may prove her most chal­leng­ing yet as she takes charge of a frag­ile coali­tion fol­low­ing half a year of po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty.

GER­MAN Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, bruised by half a year of post-elec­tion coali­tion hag­gling, was yes­ter­day nar­rowly con­firmed by par­lia­ment to her fourth term. Law­mak­ers voted 364315 to re-elect Merkel, Ger­many’s leader since 2005. The coali­tion of Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union, its Bavaria-only sis­ter party, the Chris­tian So­cial Union and the cen­ter-left So­cial Democrats has 399 of the 709 seats in par­lia­ment.

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

“The ex­pec­ta­tions of our friends and part­ners are huge, par­tic­u­larly in Europe,” Pres­i­dent Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier told Merkel and her min­is­ters as he for­mally ap­pointed the new Cab­i­net, as re­ported by AP. “Many hope we in Ger­many will show that lib­eral democ­ra­cies are ca­pa­ble of act­ing and fac­ing the fu­ture.”

The chan­cel­lor heads a much-changed Cab­i­net, with the gov­ern­ing par­ties — which are tra­di­tional ri­vals — keen to send sig­nals of re­newal af­ter a Septem­ber elec­tion in which all lost sig­nif­i­cant ground. There are new faces in the most im­por­tant posts, the fi­nance, for­eign, econ­omy and in­te­rior min­istries. The same par­ties have gov­erned for the past four years but putting to­gether the new ad­min­is­tra­tion has been un­prece­dent­edly hard work.

Wed­nes­day’s par­lia­men­tary vote came 171 days af­ter the elec­tion, nearly dou­ble the pre­vi­ous record. The So­cial Democrats ini­tially planned to go into op­po­si­tion af­ter crash­ing to their worst re­sult since World War II, but Stein­meier nudged them into a re­luc­tant about-turn af­ter Merkel’s talks with two smaller par­ties col­lapsed in Novem­ber.

Merkel will travel to Paris Fri­day for talks with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron on the first trip abroad of her new term.

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 mi­gra­tion, re­sult­ing in an in­flux of more than one mil­lion peo­ple. She must now jug­gle com­pet­ing do­mes­tic de­mands from her con­ser­va­tive CDU/CSU al­liance and the SPD, just as Ger­many is locked in a trade stand-off with the United States.

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 cen­ter-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.

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