Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Germany's Merkel begins new term

Angela Merkel and Horst Koehler
Angela Merkel leads Germany's new coalition government

Germany's new coalition government has been sworn in after Chancellor Angela Merkel was formally re-elected for a second term by MPs.

The new coalition government is made up of Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrat CDU/CSU and the Free Democrats (FDP).

It has already promised controversial tax cuts in an effort to boost growth and kick-start the economy.

But the idea of tax cuts has already been condemned by Germany's opposition parties and some regional governors.

President Horst Koehler urged the coalition to be proactive about European relations and integration.

"Germany should be one of the nations that actively contributes to moving Europe forward," the Associated Press news agency quotes him as saying.

Mrs Merkel was voted in by 323 MPs, with 285 against the nomination and four abstaining.

As she was applauded and presented with flowers, she said: "I accept the result and thank you for your trust."

She was later formally sworn in.

Preferred partners

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Berlin says the last time Mrs Merkel took the oath of office, in 2005, she was in a weaker position.

She had been forced to share power with her centre-left opponents in an awkward grand coalition.

However, our correspondent says, this time around things look very different and Mrs Merkel has developed "political muscle".

She is popular and now able to govern with her preferred coalition partner, the liberals, he says.

But while Mrs Merkel may be stronger, the German economy is far weaker now than it was four years ago, our correspondent says.

And the new coalition's plans are controversial.

It wants to kick-start the economy - the largest in Europe - by cutting taxes, despite the fact that Germany's budget deficit is about 1.5 trillion euros (£1.35 trillion) and rising.

It also plans to overhaul the health system and give more help to families during the next four years.

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