March 14 (UPI) -- German leader Angela Merkel was sworn in for a fourth four-year term as chancellor on Wednesday, ending almost six months of political division within Berlin's government.
Merkel, 63, was sworn in after lawmakers from her conservative Christian Democratic Union party and junior coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party, re-elected her for the position in a close vote.
A secret ballot showed 364 of the German Parliament's 709 members voted for Merkel -- nine more than the 50 percent required -- while 35 lawmakers from parties governing under Merkel did not vote to re-elect her.
At 171 days, the election marks the longest period in modern German history between a federal election and the election of a chancellor.
"Welcome to the new government, but it was about time," German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a ceremony Wednesday to swear Merkel and other new ministers into office. "It's good that the time of uncertainty and doubt is over. It's good that the parties are ready and willing to form a government."
Some of Merkel's critics, however, saw the close election as a bad sign.
"That was close and is a bad omen. This coalition has got off to a bad start and will not last for three and-a-half years," Alexander Mitsch, of Merkel's Christian Democrat party, said.
Although Merkel was re-elected in September, her Christian Social Union party was not able to reach a coalition, which is necessary to run the government.
Earlier this month, though, Merkel's conservatives finally formed a coalition with the opposition Social Democrats, which enabled them to move forward with the chancellor's swearing in.
Merkel has been Germany's chancellor since 2005.