German finally has a government again as Angela Merkel sworn back in as chancellor

Home / German finally has a government again as Angela Merkel sworn back in as chancellor

Angela Merkel was sworn in for a fourth term as German chancellor on Wednesday almost six months after suffering damaging losses in elections.

Mrs Merkel won a vote of confidence in parliament just over a week after securing a deal to form a new coalition after Germany endured almost six months without a government.

For the first time Mrs Merkel’s notoriously publicity-shy husband, Prof Joachim Sauer, attended the vote in parliament. But the quantum chemist, who watched Mrs Merkel’s previous swearing-in ceremonies on television from his university lab, brought along a lap-top so he could continue working. 

Merkel, wearing a necklace in the national colours black-red-gold, beamed with joy and relief as applause filled the Bundestag chamber, where her 89-year-old mother Herlind Kasner was also among the well-wishers.

Her reappointment means that Germany has an elected government for the first time in almost half a year, and she lost no time in making it clear she intends to get back to business.

Profile | Angela Merkel

She is to travel to Paris on Friday for talks with President Emmanuel Macron as the two leaders seek to restore the Franco-German axis as the main driving force in the European Union.

But Mrs Merkel returns to power with her authority diminished after the longest period of coalition negotiations in postwar Germany history.

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“Welcome to the new government, but it was about time,” President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a ceremony to swear Mrs Merkel and her new ministers into office.

“It’s good that the time of uncertainty and doubt is over. It’s good that the parties are ready and willing to form a government,” said the president, who was personally instrumental in bringing reluctant coalition partners together for talks. 

“The parties that will now govern with each other lost votes in the election, and that’s why a simple reheating of the old will not be enough to regain lost confidence,” he added, in a clear message to Mrs Merkel that it was not simply business as usual for the veteran chancellor. “This government has to prove itself new and different.”

Earlier, there were signs of the rocky path ahead for Mrs Merkel as she only just managed to win a vote of confidence in parliament — and failed to win the support of 35 MPs from her new coalition.

Although there is something of a tradition of maverick MPs voting against their own party on these occasions in Germany, it left her with a majority of just nine votes — something seized on by her critics.

“That was close and is a bad omen. This coalition has got off to a bad start and will not last for three and a half years,” Alexander Mitsch of Mrs Merkel’s own Christian Democrat party (CDU) said.

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“There were more dissenting votes than I expected,” Andrea Nahles of Mrs Merkel’s main coalition partner, the centre-Left Social Democrats (SPD) said. But she added: “For us, the matter is closed”.

There was another unsettling omen when a protestor tried to approach Mrs Merkel as she left parliament and had to be wrestled to the ground by police.

A supporter of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) was expelled from the public gallery for waving a banner that read “Merkel must go”, while one of the party’s MPs was fined €1,000 for breaking parliamentary rules and tweeting his voting slip.

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