Germany’s lower house of parliament is meeting for the first time since the general election. The session comes a day before Germany's two largest parties open coalition talks.
The Bundestag's 631 lawmakers convened on Tuesday to elect a new parliamentary president and his two deputies. Norbert Lammert of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) was expected to remain in the post, which he has held since she was first elected in 2005.
As is tradition in the German parliament, the oldest member of the Bundestag is chaired the inaugural meeting, who, as in 2009, is 77-year-old CDU lawmaker Heinz Riesenhuber. His function in this role ends with the election of the new parliamentary president.
Tuesday's meeting came a day ahead of the first formal coalition talks between the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), who are seeking to form a so-called "grand coalition government." This comes after a series of exploratory talks between leaders of the CDU and both the SPD and the Greens since the September 22 general election.
The two parties governed in a previous grand coalition under Chancellor Merkel between 2005 and 2009, when her CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) had won just four more seats than the SPD. This time, however, many SPD members fear any coalition with the CDU/CSU will see them as clearly the junior partners, after Merkel's bloc fell just five seats short of a majority in last month's election.
Leading Social Democrats, though, have said that they are determined to get a number of key policy issues that they campaigned on into any coalition agreement with the conservatives. Among these is a general minimum wage, something which the CDU/CSU have repeatedly ruled out.
Although the term of Chancellor Merkel's previous coalition with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) also ends on Tuesday, it will remain in office on a caretaker basis until a new coalition agreement has been reached. The Free Democrats were the conservatives' preferred coalition partners, however in last month's election they failed to gain the minimum five percent of votes needed to enter the Bundestag.
pfd/kms (dpa, Reuters, EPD)