Merkel sworn in for fourth term by Bundestag

Merkel Sworn in as German Chancellor for Fourth Term

Merkel, who took up the top job in 2005, will become one of the two longest-serving German chancellors by the end of her current term in 2021 with 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy.

"There were more dissenting votes than I would have expected", said Andrea Nahles, Bundestag leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), back in as junior partner.

Lawmakers voted by 364 to 315, with nine abstentions, in favour of re-electing Merkel, 63.

That means at least 35 coalition lawmakers didn't even support her on Wednesday.

She had earlier been elected to her fourth term as chancellor by the Bundestag.

At the time, Merkel said close cooperation would be offered on the basis of continued shared values such as "democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and the dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political position".

The SPD initially planned to go into opposition after September's election, in which they also crashed to historic lows.

According to German newspaper Deutsche Welle, there will be a "wide variety of topics on the agenda at Merkel's first cabinet meeting", including domestic security; achieving full employment by 2025; protecting Europe's external borders; and the relationship with the US, Russia and China. That significantly complicated the task of forming another governing coalition.

Two-thirds of SPD members gave their blessing for the coalition deal clinched last month, paving the way for Wednesday's parliamentary vote, in which Ms Merkel ran unopposed.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us", Merkel said after the formal signing of the coalition deal with the SPD on Monday.

From 1600 GMT, Merkel sits down with her new cabinet, in which the SPD has wrested both the trophy posts of finance and foreign affairs to the dismay of a growing band of critics within her Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Designated finance minister Olaf Scholz, who replaces steely conservative Wolfgang Schaeuble, is calling for stronger ties within Europe, although he's given few hints on specific policy goals.

Merkel has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union, the most powerful woman in the world, and the leader of the Free World.

But her authority was dented by her decision in 2015 to commit Germany to an open-door policy on refugees, resulting in an influx of more than one million people that laid bare deep divisions within the European Union over migration.

Meanwhile a member of the far-right opposition Alternative für Deutschland was fined €1,000 for tweeting a picture of his voting card from the secret ballot.

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