171 days after Germany’s national election, Angela Merkel has been confirmed as the country’s next Chancellor.
Last year’s election results, which saw the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) gain ground over Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), presaged months of political deadlock and inter-party bargaining.
This deadlock came to an end earlier in March, when Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SDU) voted for a coalition deal with the CDU and it’s sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
The grand coalition, which wields 399 out of 709 votes at the Bundestag, was also approved on Wednesday. Angela Merkel was elected by a smaller margin than the coalition itself, with only 364 members voting in favour. This narrow vote margin underlines what many commentators see as Merkel’s weak political position as she embarks upon her fourth term as Chancellor and her third as leader of a grand coalition.
Merkel will head up a much-changed cabinet, with only three ministers remaining in their previous positions. Coalition talks saw six seats going to the SPD, three more to the CSU, with Merkel retaining only five seats for the CDU.
New faces in Merkel’s cabinet include Olaf Scholz of the SPD as finance minister, the CDU’s Peter Altmaier as economy minister, and Horst Seehofer, head of the CSU, as minister of the interior. Heiko Maas of the SPD will replace Sigmar Gabriel as foreign minister, and, as one of the few cabinet members to retain their previous portfolios, Ursula von der Leyen of the CDU will continue as defence minister.
With the anti-immigration AfD gaining in popularity, immigration will top the list of government concerns in 2018. The new interior minister, Horst Seehofer, who has long called for tougher rules on asylum seekers and other migrants, is expected to draw up a plan for more effective deportations and faster processing of applicants for asylum.
Although German legislation places no limit on the number of years that can be served as Chancellor, this is expected to be Merkel’s last term in office.