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Angela Merkel wins chancellor seat

East German physicist becomes the first woman to hold Germany's top post.

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After three weeks of political wrangling that left Europe's largest economy temporarily without a leader, party officials announced Monday that Angela Merkel will become Germany's first female chancellor.

Gerhard Schröder, who was ultimately unable to convince Germans that he was the right person to steer their country down the reform path, agreed to step aside after seven years as chancellor as part of a deal reached Monday between Germany's two main political parties.

"I'm in a good mood," said Ms. Merkel, in a rare moment of personal candor while talking with reporters. "But I know there's a lot of work ahead of us."

Rather than basking in the glow of a historic moment, however, Merkel and analysts alike are looking to the difficult, sobering days ahead - both for Germany's political leadership, as well as for its lagging economy.

As part of the deal reached Monday, Mr. Schröder's Social Democratic Party (SDP) - which won many votes in the final weeks by promising reform-wary Germans a slower path to reform - will control of eight ministries. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party will control six.

Though agreeing on the importance of adjusting Germany's social market economy to the challenges of globalization, the Social Democrats, which will hold the foreign, finance, health, and labor ministries, will probably slow Merkel's agenda of stripping away the country's strict job protection laws and radically trimming public spending.


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