German Chancellor Angela Merkel was formally elected to a fourth term in a parliamentary vote, extending her 12 years in office at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy.
Merkel, 63, was backed by a majority of 364 lawmakers in the 709-member lower house on the strength of a coalition deal between her Christian Democratic-led bloc and the Social Democrats, renewing the governing alliance of Germany’s two biggest parties.
Europe’s longest-serving leader immediately faces a growing list of challenges, from US President Donald Trump’s threats of a trade war and China’s overseas investment push to French calls for closer ties in the euro area and a fraught relationship with Russia. Merkel is expected to meet President Emmanuel Macron in Paris this week on her first post-inaugural trip. “We’ll get to work very quickly,” Volker Kauder, Merkel’s majority leader in the lower house, or Bundestag, said before the vote.
While including new faces, Merkel’s pick of cabinet members includes longtime allies from her Christian Democratic Union. In contrast, the Social Democrats named several members with little or no government experience after party leaders faced pressure from grass-roots rebels who oppose serving as Merkel’s junior partner for a third time since 2005.
In the biggest change, Merkel’s coalition deal hands the finance ministry to the Social Democrats for the first time in eight years, giving the SPD a platform to shape euro-area policy. Designated Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is calling for strengthening ties within Europe, though he’s given few hints on specific policy goals. He says he’s committed to maintaining Germany’s balanced budget.
The vote under the glass dome of the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin follows almost six months of post-election party deadlock — Germany’s longest since World War II — after Merkel won an inconclusive victory at the polls in September. Her party bloc and the Social Democrats both fell to historic lows, complicating the task of building another
While the outcome preserves the political center, Merkel is likely to be challenged more often in a parliament that includes the far-right Alternative for Germany for the first time. In response to questions about her political standing after the election, Merkel said she has no intention of quitting before her latest term ends in 2021.