Merkel secures victory with new coalition partner (Lead)

September 28th, 2009 - 3:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Sep 28 (DPA) German Chancellor Angela Merkel secured victory at the head of a new centre-right coalition she said was needed “to move our country forward”.
“We’ve achieved our goal of forming a new government,” she said Sunday after her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their preferred allies won a safe parliamentary majority in federal elections.

After a low-key campaign focussed on a promise of moderate tax cuts, Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), saw their vote share ease slightly.

But the CDU/CSU benefited from the success of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), which won a place as junior partner in Merkel’s new government, replacing her Social Democratic Party (SPD) partner of the past four years.

“We wanted a stable government that shows greater determination to move our country forward,” a beaming Merkel told supporters, amid cries of “Angie, Angie”.

The CDU/CSU saw their joint vote share decline by 1.4 percent from 2005 to 33.8 percent, preliminary final results released by the election commission showed.

The FDP leader, Guido Westerwelle, emerges from opposition to become a key figure in the new German government over the next four years.

He and Merkel had agreed before the election to ally if they could, and he is widely expected to be offered the post of foreign minister.

The FDP won 14.6 percent of the vote nationally, increasing its share by 4.8 percentage points compared to the last election in 2005.

An elated Westerwelle signalled he would bargain hard in the new coalition, telling supporters, “We want to co-govern”.

He said the FDP would demand a “fair” tax system, better education and respect for civil liberties. Merkel predicted tough coalition negotiations with her new partner.

Merkel’s previous coalition ally, the SPD, crashed to its worst result in the six-decade history of modern Germany with just 23 percent of the votes, down 11.2 percentage points.

Analysts for ZDF television predicted the Christian parties and FDP would occupy 334 seats, a safe majority out of the 625 seats likely to be filled in the new lower chamber of parliament, the Bundestag.

In a speech to SPD activists in Berlin, the centre-left party’s lead candidate, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, conceded defeat, saying Merkel’s supporters and the FDP had won a working majority.

Steinmeier, who was foreign minister in the outgoing government, said: “This is a bitter day for German social democracy, a bitter defeat after fighting a campaign with so much commitment.”

Looking sombre, he said he would take on the role of leader of the opposition, adding, “I will not run away from responsibility”. He said that as opposition party, the SPD would oppose any extension of the working life of nuclear-power stations in Germany.

He said the SPD had been unable to mobilise its voters as turnout slumped to a record low for a federal election in modern Germany to 71.2 percent, a fall of 6.5 points from 2005.

Two other smaller parties made significant gains, but are to remain in opposition.

The radical Left Party raised its support 3.2 points to 11.9 percent, by campaigning on behalf of the unemployed and the poor, while the environmentalist Greens garnered 2.6 points more support to win 10.7 percent of the vote.

Fritz Kuhn, a senior Green, interpreted the outcome as a boost for all three smaller parties, saying, “Obviously the era of the big mass parties is coming to an end”.

Around six percent of Germans voted for minor parties which won no seats at all under the German electoral system, allowing the new coalition to take power with just 48.4 percent of the popular vote.

The far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) and German People’s Union (DVU) were among the 22 minor parties who failed to clear the five percent hurdle needed for parliamentary representation.

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