New German Parliament Meets

BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's newly elected parliament met for its opening session on Tuesday, with lawmakers from the nationalist, anti-migration Alternative for Germany taking their seats for the first time after last month's election.

The lower house meeting under the dome of Berlin's Reichstag building has 709 lawmakers, a record size. It has six caucuses, up from four in the previous parliament, among them the 92 lawmakers from Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

Lawmakers were expected to elect outgoing Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc, as the new speaker. They also were due to elect six deputy speakers from the various parties, who are traditionally approved with cross-party support.

A clash between AfD and others was likely over its nominee, Albrecht Glaser, who is opposed by lawmakers from mainstream parties. AfD's opponents object to comments earlier this year in which Glaser argued that freedom of religion shouldn't apply to Islam, which they say put him at odds with Germany's constitution.

Parliament's rules were changed earlier this year to have the longest-serving lawmaker, rather than the oldest as was previously the case, open the first session. Under the old rules, an AfD lawmaker would have had the opening speech.

"The election result on Sept. 24 changed the balance of power in parliament more than expected and redistributed political roles," Hermann Otto Solms of the pro-business Free Democrats told lawmakers.

"We must accept this decision by voters. Parliament must mirror the diversity of opinions in the population," Solms said. "I warn against creating special rules, marginalizing or stigmatizing people."

Merkel's conservatives, the Free Democrats and the traditionally left-leaning Greens are in the early phase of trying to form a governing coalition. It's likely to be weeks or months before the new government is in place.

(KA)