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Merkel vows quick deal on German coalition

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[September 28, 2009]  BERLIN (AP) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to press ahead quickly with forming a new center-right German government following her election victory.

Sunday's election gave the conservative Merkel a second four-year term. It allows her to dump her "grand coalition" with the center-left Social Democrats and form a new government with the pro-business Free Democrats.

HardwareMerkel told reporters Monday that she will quickly discuss with the Free Democrats how negotiations will shape up "in the coming days and weeks."

She says "we want to do that quickly; of course quality comes before speed, but I think Germany is entitled to have a new government quickly, because we have been campaigning for several months and we have many tasks ahead of us."


AP's earlier story is below.


BERLIN (AP) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday set about laying the groundwork for her new, center-right coalition as analysts warned that her victory might have a downside for her popularity.


Merkel, 55, who was voted back into office for a second term in Sunday's elections, will spend the coming weeks building a new government with the Free Democrats, whose leader Guido Westerwelle, 47, is widely expected to be tapped as her deputy and foreign minister.

But after four years at the head of a largely consensus-orientated grand coalition with the center-left Social Democrats -- who suffered the biggest losses in Sunday's vote -- concerns emerged that Merkel's partnership with a pro-business party might force her into a tough position in a country used to its generous social welfare state, and reluctant to face big changes.

"The golden times for Angela Merkel are over," Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily wrote in an editorial Monday, noting that the Free Democrats will force Merkel to steer a more economy-friendly and less popular course.

"If she continues to play the role of mother of the nation, she will have difficulties with the Free Democrats and her own party. If she becomes an iron lady, she loses her reputation with the people."

Merkel's CDU and its Bavaria-only sister, the Christian Social Union, won 33.8 percent of the vote and the Free Democrats captured 14.6 percent -- together enough to ensure a majority in parliament. Merkel's former partner in the uneasy "grand coalition," the Social Democrats, took 23 percent. The Left Party had 11.9 percent and the Greens 10.7 percent.

"We have managed to achieve our election aim of a stable majority in Germany for a new government," a beaming Merkel told supporters.

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Nevertheless, her own party suffered its second-worst showing since World War II and there were fears that she could have trouble with the more traditional wing of her own party.

"In the coalition with the Free Democrats, she will be under stronger pressure from industrial lobbyists, from her pro-business partners, as well as from the conservatives within her own party," Monday's Berliner Zeitung daily wrote in a commentary.

Sunday's result gave the conservatives 239 seats and the Free Democrats 93 in the lower house -- for a comfortable center-right majority of 332 seats to 290. The Social Democrats won 146, the Left Party 76 and the Greens 68.

Germany's economy -- Europe's largest -- has been badly hit by the downturn. Though it returned to modest growth in the second quarter and business confidence is rising, gross domestic product is still expected to shrink by 5 percent or more this year -- easily the worst performance since World War II.

That is expected to create hurdles for the next government because a rising budget deficit bloated by stimulus spending during the crisis will make it harder to deliver its promised tax cuts aimed at spurring growth.

Among the thorniest issues that face the new government is its participation in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. In the weeks ahead of the election, extremists from al-Qaida and the Taliban both issued messages aimed at Germany, including threats of retaliation if they did not withdraw their 4,200 troops.

The new government "has to find clear words on Afghanistan," Bild Zeitung daily demanded in an editorial. "The voters put their confidence in the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats. Now Merkel and Westerwelle need to keep their word."

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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