Merkel takes oath of office, begins third term | News | DW | 17.12.2013
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Merkel takes oath of office, begins third term

Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken the oath of office, officially beginning her third term. She and her cabinet, which has also been sworn in, are due to hold their first meeting later in the day.

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Merkel chancellor, again

Bundestag President Norbert Lammert administered the oath of office to Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, followed by resounding applause in parliament. The ceremony followed a morning of formalities.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was voted chancellor by the Bundestag on Tuesday morning. Of the 621 members who voted, 462 voted yes and 150 voted no. There were nine abstentions. Following the announcement by Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, Merkel said: "I accept the election result and thank you for your trust," she said.

Members of parliament lined up to congratulate the chancellor on her third term.

Merkel then travelled down the road to Schloss Bellevue, where German President Joachim Gauck presented her her formal appointment. After a swift ceremony, she made the two-kilometer (1.2-mile) trek back to the Bundestag to take the oath of office around noon (1100 UTC).

Although German voters gave Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the CSU, over 40 percent of the vote in September, Merkel must be given parliamentary approval in order to head the government according to German law.

Merkel was expected to easily win the required absolute majority with the roughly 80-percent control over parliament held by her party and her center-left junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD).

Merkel's cabinet also received their certificates of appointment from the German head of state on Tuesday. A swearing in ceremony at the Bundestag took place shortly thereafter.

The first cabinet meeting was scheduled for early Tuesday evening.

New cabinet, old faces

The CDU/CSU and SPD signed their coalition agreement on Monday. The deal formally began Germany's third grand coalition of its two largest parties since the end of WWII.

While the required signatures ended months of waiting for the next government, the announcement of the new cabinet members over the weekend was received with more excitement.

Merkel's third cabinet reshuffled her closest CDU allies, with some gaining more power, and some returning to old and familiar roles.

Environment minister Peter Altmaier moved up to head the chancellery, while Wolfgang Schäuble retained his post as finance minister.

The biggest surprise came with the decision to promote CDU Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen to head the defense ministry, making her the first woman in this post in German history. The move was regarded as a political push toward the chancellorship for the 55-year-old politician, who previously headed the ministry of family affairs during Merkel's first term.

Her predecessor, Thomas de Maiziere, was to return to the interior ministry, which he had already headed from 2005 and 2009. A scandal surrounding the failed 600-million- euro ($826 million) Eurohawk drone program overshadowed his final months in office as defense minister. Failure to gain approval for the unmanned aircraft in EU airspace caused de Maiziere to end the project after nearly 12 years of work. Even though he had inherited the drone program, the case raised questions about a lack of oversight in the defense ministry and his competence as its head.

SPD comes away with more

The SPD gained six ministries in the cabinet, including the key posts of labor, foreign affairs and the vice chancellorship. The chance to retain influence over the direction of Germany was seen as a boon for the party. It has dropped in popularity over the past decade and, though making gains in the last election, still only won less than 30 percent of the vote.

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Germany's first woman defense minister

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel was tapped to be Merkel's vice chancellor and also to head a new ministry, which combines the economy and energy ministries. The new 'super ministry,' so dubbed by the German media, is to help oversee Germany's transition to renewable energy sources.

Meanwhile, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was named foreign minister, taking over from liberal Federal Democrat predecessor Guido Westerwelle. Steinmeier had headed the foreign ministry during the last grand coalition from 2005 and 2009 and then served as the leader of the opposition in parliament.

Questions remain about whether the SPD can endure another grand coalition with Merkel and the CDU/CSU. Following its last grand coalition with Chancellor Merkel from 2005 to 2009, its popularity dropped to an all-time low. Her last junior coalition partner, the Federal Democrats (FDP), faced an even worse fate after recent elections, when they failed to capture the 5 percent of the vote needed to enter parliament. However, the SPD has already had a few political victories since September, including delivering on its promise to implement a national minimum wage of 8.50 euros an hour by 2015.

kms/tj (AP, AFP, dpa)

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