Post-Merkel parliament more diverse
BERLIN, Oct 26: Germany's new parliament met for the first time Tuesday after last month's election, ushering in a post-Merkel era that is more female, younger and more ethnically diverse.
After 31 years as an MP, outgoing Angela Merkel left the front-row seat reserved for the government and took her place above the chamber in an "honorary loge" as caretaker chancellor until a new government is in place.
The centre-left Social Democrats won the most votes in the September 26 general election, and their candidate Olaf Scholz is working toward cobbling together a ruling coalition by early December.
But while the top job is expected to pass from Germany's first female chancellor to a man, the Bundestag lower house's powerful speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble is set to hand off the gavel to Baerbel Bas -- only the third woman to hold the post.
Schaeuble told deputies that parliamentary democracies only stood a chance against "authoritarian" competitors by ensuring that "diversity of points of view" in their societies are respected.
"We can disagree," he said, but conflicts must be fought "fairly, according to rules", adding that German political debate had become increasingly "intolerant of differences".
The new Bundestag, which has grown to a record 736 seats, boasts a number of firsts for the EU's most populous country, although activists say it still has far to go to reflect the nation's growing diversity.
The first-ever black woman MP, Eritrean-born Awet Tesfaiesus, 47, took her seat among the Greens' parliamentary group.
Having arrived in Germany at age 10, Tesfaiesus went on to become a lawyer defending the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. -AFP