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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 November 2005, 14:41 GMT
Flowers and smiles on Merkel's first day
By Ray Furlong
BBC News, Berlin

Angela Merkel gave the briefest flicker of a smile when the result of her election was read out.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
After a warm reception, work begins swiftly for the new chancellor
On the gallery overlooking parliament, her parents Horst and Herlind Kasner, both in their late 70s, sat eating biscuits in the shapes of the letters CDU, the party she leads.

They smiled warmly as the venue filled with applause at the election of a daughter who they had once told: "You have to be better than all the rest."

She was soon surrounded by a swarm of MPs waiting to congratulate her, many bearing bouquets of flowers.

The first to shake her hand was outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who will tomorrow resign from his seat in parliament and withdraw from day-to-day politics.

Then the Speaker of parliament, Norbert Lammert, interrupted with a personal remark that brought hails of laughter:

"Dear Dr Merkel, you are the first democratically elected female head of government in Germany. That sends a strong message to many women; and surely some men as well."

'No drama'

But beyond the joviality, there is the fact that 51 MPs from the governing coalition did not vote for the new chancellor.

The rebellion was a reminder that leading a bipartisan left-right coalition will not be easy.

This coalition is wobbly
Guido Westerwelle
Free Democrats Party
"This coalition is wobbly," said the opposition Free Democrats (FDP) leader Guido Westerwelle - a personal friend of Mrs Merkel who had hoped to rule with her.

He said it cast doubt over whether the government could last its full four-year term of office.

Other opposition politicians also took the chance to get their first dig in at the new government.

Predictably, representatives of the coalition played down the rebellion.

"This is no drama," said Volker Kauder, the CDU chief whip.

"The election of Mrs Merkel is a good message for the country. It's a good result and I'm happy with it."

Off to work

For Mrs Merkel there was little time to consider what the rebellion means. She drove over to the presidential palace to receive her official letter of appointment from the head of state, Horst Koehler, before having lunch.

Angela Merkel's parents Horst (l) and Herlind Kasner
Mrs Merkel's parents had always urged her to strive for success
Later, she was officially sworn in and becomes Germany's eighth post-war chancellor.

But, crucially, she is the first woman to hold the role, and first leader from the former communist east.

Mrs Merkel planned to cap this historic day in her typical reserved manner - with a glass of red wine among a close circle of friends.

But a hectic work schedule then begins.

She departs first thing Wednesday morning on her first foreign trip, to Paris and Brussels, before a dinner appointment with Tony Blair in London on Thursday.

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