Merkel sworn in as first woman leader of Germany

22nd November 2005, Comments 0 comments

22 November 2005, BERLIN - Angela Merkel Tuesday became Germany's first woman chancellor at the head of a "grand coalition" of both main parties after securing a convincing majority in a parliamentary vote.

22 November 2005

BERLIN - Angela Merkel Tuesday became Germany's first woman chancellor at the head of a "grand coalition" of both main parties after securing a convincing majority in a parliamentary vote.

The 51-year-old Christian Democrat secured 397 of the 614 possible votes in a secret ballot in the Bundestag.

She heads a government that combines the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), along with its Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), with their traditional political opponents, the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

After paying a visit to President Horst Koehler, Merkel took the oath of office in the historic Reichstag building, which now houses the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.

Merkel dedicated herself to the "wellbeing of the German people" and to protect the nation from harm, ending her oath with: "So help me God."

Merkel replaces outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who headed an SPD-Greens coalition from 1998. After the vote Schroeder immediately resigned his Bundestag seat, leaving top-level politics.

The head of the CDU/CSU parliamentary caucus, Volker Kauder, said he was "very satisfied" with the outcome, despite indications that around 50 SPD members had voted against Merkel or abstained.

SPD General Secretary Hubertus Heil described the result as "very good" and pledged his party's cooperation within the grand coalition, the first such constellation to rule Germany since the 1960s.

The president - or speaker - of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert described the vote as a "very strong signal to many women and certainly to some men".

Kauder's deputy, Wolfgang Bosbach, predicted Germany would see a more measured kind of politics, implicitly criticising the style of "media chancellor" Schroeder.

"There will be somewhat less glitz and glamour...but a more business-like approach," he predicted.

Merkel is the first chancellor from the formerly communist East Germany, which collapsed in 1989 and was incorporated into the German Federal Republic.

The Bundestag vote followed two months of political horse-trading after inconclusive elections on September 18 that compelled Merkel to seek a deal with the SPD.

Her cabinet of 15 ministers has eight from the SPD, including the key posts of Vice-Chancellor Franz Muentefering, Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The five ministers from the CDU include Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung.

The CSU has two, including Economy Minister Michael Glos.

The first cabinet meeting was scheduled for Tuesday evening.

Reviving Germany's economic fortunes and bringing the budget into balance through cuts to social services and raising taxes are the main issues facing the new government.

Many commentators in Germany and abroad predicted the coalition would not last out its four-year term, warning that contradictions between the CDU/CSU and the SPD would soon emerge.

In line with longstanding tradition, the new chancellor was travelling to Paris Wednesday to meet President Jacques Chirac.

A trip to E.U. headquarters in Brussels was to follow the same day. After returning to Berlin, Merkel was to fly to London Thursday for dinner with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Visits to Washington and Warsaw were to follow, although dates were not certain.


Subject: German news

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