Angela Merkel has been officially sworn in for a second term as Germany's chancellor, amid strong criticism over her coalition's economic policy. Critics say it does not tackle the country's soaring budget deficit.
In Merkel's second term, the economy and Afghanistan will be two major challenges
German President Horst Koehler swore in Angela Merkel on Wednesday after she was formally elected chancellor by the lower house of parliament. Her new cabinet was also sworn in.
"I accept the result and thank you for your trust," Merkel said as lawmakers applauded in the main chamber of the Reichstag parliament building.
The majority of German MPs voted for Merkel, as she received 323 'yes' votes out of 622. While the vote is secret, calculations show that apparently nine parliamentarians from Merkel's own coalition withheld their support.
Merkel, 55, whose Christian Democrats emerged as the strongest party following the general election on September 27, enters her second term with a new coalition between her conservatives and the pro-business Free Democrats.
Tackling the economy
As criticism mounts over Merkel's economic plan, President Koehler warned the chancellor against "unrealistic growth hopes" and said Germany must reduce its debt levels.
Merkel's coalition announced a policy program last week which includes 24 billion euros ($35 billion) in tax cuts; though it is not entirely clear how the government plans to finance them. Political opponents say she needs to do more to reduce Germany's enormous debt.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy supports Merkel's tax cuts
Luxembourg's prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the 16-nation eurozone, said that Germany's debt level was "excessive and scarcely bearable for the next generation."
So far, Merkel has not committed herself to making any unpopular spending cuts, and has maintained that cutting taxes will help Germany's economy recover.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy praised Merkel's tax-cutting plan as he hosted her in Paris on Wednesday evening.
"Your choice of growth by lowering taxes is a very useful choice for Europe," Sarkozy told reporters at his Elysee palace before dinner with Merkel. "The composition and the program of your coalition government are good news for France."
During the meeting, Merkel also agreed to come to Paris on November 11 for Armistice Day to commemorate those who lost their lives in the two world wars. She is to be the first German leader to attend the ceremony.
Editor: Chuck Penfold