According to NPR, the German Bundestag voted to swear in Angela Merkel as chancellor for a fourth term on March 14. After enduring a lengthy negotiation process and a close vote, Merkel faces numerous challenges for her country in her upcoming term.
Merkel has served as chancellor of Germany since 2005 with the support of her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Her 12 years in office have made her one of the longest-serving chancellors of Germany and a symbol of stability in the region to many.
However, the 2017 election brought this stability into question. Both Merkel’s party and her partner in the grand coalition, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), lost seats to other parties, most notably the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Failure to form a coalition with the Green Party and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) forced Merkel to attempt to renew the coalition between her party and the SDP. The vote to confirm her as chancellor brings the record-long five-month period without a government to an end. However, according to Reuters, the vote was extremely close: 364 to 315 with 9 abstentions. Compared to her election in 2013, when she received more than 80 percent of the vote, the outcome indicates that Merkel is on shakier ground than in her previous terms.
There were also minor disruptions indicating discontent with the result of the vote from members of the AfD. According to Deutsche Welle, one AfD party member unrolled a banner that read “Merkel must go” and was escorted out of the chamber. Another tweeted a picture of his ballot in which he voted against Merkel with the caption “Not My Chancellor.” He was later fined for breaking the German secret ballot rules.
Opposition party leaders were also quick to condemn Merkel, with FDP Chairman Christian Linder saying, “The result shows that the chancellor has lost authority,” and AFD Chairman Alexander Gauland characterizing the vote as “two loser parties circling the wagons to govern the country whatever way they can.”
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier remained more optimistic as he swore Merkel in for her fourth term. According to the Washington Post, he said, “It is good that the time of uncertainty is over” and that “many hope we in Germany will show that liberal democracies are capable of acting and facing the future.”
Now equipped with a fresh cabinet filled with younger and more diverse ministers, Merkel has numerous challenges to address, Reuters reports. She faces trade tensions with the United States in the wake of tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump. Closer to home, she is under pressure from France to reform Europe and from the United Kingdom to condemn Russia. Meanwhile, she has to reckon with an already fragile coalition over which she has much less control than before. As a result, Merkel’s fourth term may turn out to be her hardest yet.