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Merkel’s Second Term Ends as New German Parliament Convenes

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, talks to SPD Leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier during the election of the Bundestag President at the Bundestag in Berlin. Photographer: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s second term ends today as Germany’s lower house of parliament convenes without a new government, as her Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats prepare for coalition talks.

German President Joachim Gauck granted Merkel permission to oversee a caretaker government until a new cabinet is sworn in, as the lower house, or Bundestag, meets in Berlin a month after the Sept. 22 election to begin the new term.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its CSU Bavarian sister party spent weeks in exploratory talks, including overtures to the Greens, before deciding to form a government with the SPD. The SPD this week approved the negotiations after setting “essential” conditions, including a national minimum wage. Talks begin tomorrow.

The session opening the 18th legislative period since the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in 1949 is procedural, electing the Bundestag president, the CDU’s Norbert Lammert, and his deputies, representing each parliamentary caucus.

Merkel’s bloc dominates the assembly with 311 of the 631 seats. The SPD has 193, while the anti-capitalist Left Party and the environmental Green party have 64 and 63 respectively.

Party leaders have said they plan to negotiate through November with the aim to have a government by Christmas. Negotiators will complete an agreement with a two-day meeting on Nov. 26 and 27, Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper reported today.

SPD Votes

The SPD said it will put the coalition pact to a vote of its 470,000 members; a mail-in ballot process that the party’s general secretary, Andrea Nahles, said will take about two weeks. Merkel’s third government, a repeat of her grand coalition with the SPD from 2005 to 2009, would then be sworn in on Dec. 17th or 18th, Leipziger Volkszeitung reported.

Following today’s session, Merkel and her cabinet will be officially dismissed at the presidential palace.

With the new government, Merkel’s cabinet ministers from the pro-business Free Democratic Party, including Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, with whom she’s governed for four years, will be out of a job. The FDP failed to make the 5 percent threshold to enter the Bundestag for the first time in Germany’s post-World War II history.

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