The meeting of the 631-strong Bundestag came one day before Merkel is due to lead the first round of negotiations with the main opposition Social Democrats to forge a so-called grand coalition. The chamber's current speaker Norbert Lammert, a member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), returned to the post after being backed by an overwhelming majority of parliamentarians.

In his acceptance speech on Tuesday, Lammert called upon the CDU and the SPD, the largest parties in the Bundestag, to make sure that the opposition can fully exercise its parliamentary control function if they build the next government. German President Joachim Gauck discharged Merkel's conservative-liberal cabinet from its responsibilities on Tuesday, but asked them to remain in office on a care-taker basis until a new government is put in place.

The lawmakers also elected six deputies, two each from the conservative bloc and the SPD and one each from the opposition Left party and the Green party. The CDU and its Bavarian-based associate party, the Christian Social Union, emerged as the biggest bloc in the election with 311 seats in the new Parliament.

But Merkel needs a new coalition partner after falling short by a handful of seats to gain an absolute majority after her previous ally, the Free Democrats (FDP), failed to return to parliament. Merkel is set to return to power for a third four-year term at the helm of a new 'grand coalition' with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Negotiations between Merkel's CDU and the SPD to work out a coalition agreement are scheduled to get under way today. For Merkel, forming a new coalition with the SPD would provide her with a solid political majority of 504 seats in the 631-member Bundestag.

Merkel's Conservative Party, won 41.5 percent of the vote and hopes to form a coalition with the Social Democrats, who achieved 25.7 percent, their second lowest score in history. The Left party and the Green party, which are expected to build the opposition, have a total of 127 seats.

The Bundestag has 230 new members and with a share of 36 percent, the number of women deputies is the highest in Germany's post-war history. Leaders of both CDU and the SPD have indicated that they have set the goal of installing a new government by mid-December.


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