It's been the greatest triumph of her career to date. Chancellor Angela Merkel received more than 40% of the German vote in last week's elections, an unprecedented return. She is at the pinnacle of her power, unchallenged in the ranks of the CDU.
But finding a coalition partner will prove difficult. And without one, Merkel will find it impossible to push through her reform plans in both Germany and Europe.
It's the third time that Angela Merkel will take the helm in Germany, and this time it will be more difficult to secure a stable majority than ever before. Her Social Democrat rivals are in no hurry to join a CDU-dominated government. The last time they became part of a 'Grand Coalition' eight years ago, voters punished them for it at the polls in the next election. The Free Democrats – the CDU's junior coalition partner in government for the past four years -- have now suffered even worse. In last week's election, they didn't even manage to clear 5% of the vote, the minimum necessary to be granted seats in the German Bundestag. The Greens are another possible partner, but they're skeptical of their traditional conservative opponents. Merkel's success has frightened off any suitors. In domestic terms, her strength could actually prove to be a weakness.
When it comes to foreign relations, however, the overwhelming vote of confidence in the Chancellor will be viewed by many with relief. Newspapers and magazines in France, Spain and Britain are now calling her terms of office the 'Merkel Era'. And in the EU, a strong German government is key to pushing through reforms all over a continent still mired in crisis.
Tell us what you think: Merkels Victory – At What Price?
Tilo Jung is a blogger and journalist based in Berlin. His Youtube interview series entitled 'Young & Naive - Politics for the Indifferent' has made him well-known. In it he asks politicians to explain complex problems and their solutions, allowing him to get a personal perspective on all the parties in the German election campaign.
Quentin Peel - he is the Chief Correspondent for the Financial Times in Germany. He is also an associate editor, responsible for leader and feature writing. He is working at the FT since 1975. Between 1976 and 1994 he served successively as southern Africa correspondent, Africa editor, European Community correspondent and Brussels bureau chief, Moscow correspondent, and chief correspondent in Germany. On his return to London he became foreign editor. He took up his present position in September 1998. He was born in July 1948 and educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he studied economics, with French and German.
Alison Smale - is a British journalist who graduated from Stanford University in the US. In December 2008, she became the first woman to take up the post of Executive Editor at the International Herald Tribune. In an article about the IHT's redesign in April 2009, which Smale oversaw, The Independent called her "the most powerful British female editor overseas." In her reporting days, Alison Smale was AP's bureau chief for Eastern Europe, where she covered the rise of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia and changes in Russia. As Deputy Foreign Editor at The New York Times she organized much of the paper's coverage of the Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan. She is now the New York Times bureau chief in Berlin.