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Merkel Says German Election Result Strong Vote For European Unity

German Chancellor Angela Merkel waves to supporters as she celebrates after the first exit polls at party headquarters in Berlin on September 22.
Chancellor Angela Merkel says the German election result was a strong vote for unity in the European Union.

Merkel, whose conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won 41.5 percent of the vote on September 22 and finished just short of an absolute parliamentary majority, said on September 23 that she sees no need for change in Germany's policy toward Europe.

Merkel, whose country has been the engine of the European economy and the main backer of the European single currency, has insisted that EU financial bailouts for countries such as Greece would only be extended if commitments were given to make harsh spending cuts and reforms.

Merkel insisted that she will stay the course, for the benefit of both Germany and Europe as a whole.

"The election result was a very strong mandate from the voters to exercise responsibility in Germany's interest in Europe and in the world, and also a strong mandate for a united Europe," she said.

Merkel told a news conference in Berlin on September 23 that she is prepared to begin her third term as Germany's chancellor.

"We conservatives have a clear mandate to form a government and Germany needs a stable government, so we will carry out this mandate," she said.

However, the Free Democrat Party, which has governed with Merkel's party since 2009, did not win enough votes to enter parliament, which left the CDU in need of a coalition partner.

Merkel said she had already been in contact with the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) about a possible "grand coalition" between center-left and center-right following the election:

"We are, of course, open for talks and I have already had initial contact with SPD (Social Democrat) chairman Sigmar Gabriel, who said the SPD must first hold a meeting of its leaders on Friday [September 27]," she said. "It goes without saying that the committees of the different parties take priority."

Politicians and analysts in southern European countries affected by the eurozone crisis expressed hopes that the possible participation of the center-left SPD would push Merkel to soften austerity policies and support economic-stimulus measures.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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