Scholz Takes Over As German Chancellor, Ending Merkel Era
By Deborah Cole of TheLocal.de
German lawmakers elected Social Democrat Olaf Scholz as chancellor on Wednesday, ending 16 years of conservative rule under Angela Merkel and paving the way for a pro-European government that has promised to boost green investment. Scholz, 63, took the oath of office in the chamber of the Bundestag lower house of parliament from speaker Bärbel Bas, after his election by MPs with 395 out of 707 votes cast.
He will lead Germany’s first federal “traffic light” coalition, made up of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the ecologist Greens and the liberal Free Democrats and named for the parties’ colors. When he was elected by parliament earlier in the day, speaker Bas asked whether he accepted the election. A beaming Scholz nodded and then received bouquets of flowers from MPs to congratulate him.
Scholz was then whisked by motorcade to Berlin’s Bellevue Palace and officially named Germany’s chancellor by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier His new cabinet was also set to be sworn in on Wednesday.
SPD’s @OlafScholz secures a majority of 395 of 736 Bundestag lawmakers to become Germany’s new chancellor (21 short of coalition’s 416 – tho many are out sick). Scholz gives an understated nod when asked if he accepts the vote (rather than declaring it)… pic.twitter.com/VxYZKOj2Bv
— Patrick Donahue (@patrickjdo) December 8, 2021
Scholz has pledged to make Germany greener and fairer under his leadership.
As finance minister under the now former chancellor Merkel, Scholz led his Social Democrats to victory in the September 26th election – an outcome considered unthinkable at the start of the year given the party’s then festering divisions and anaemic support.
Scholz, 63, who turned emulating Merkel in style and substance into a winning strategy, has now cobbled together Germany’s first national “traffic light” coalition with the ecologist Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, nicknamed after the parties’ colors. Their four-year pact sealed late last month is called “Dare for More Progress”, a hat tip to Social Democratic chancellor Willy Brandt’s 1969 historic pledge to “Dare for More Democracy”.
“We have a chance for a new beginning for Germany,” Scholz told his party at the weekend as it gave its blessing to the coalition agreement with 99-percent support. The alliance aims to slash carbon emissions, overhaul decrepit digital infrastructure, modernize citizenship laws, lift the minimum wage and have Germany join a handful of countries worldwide in legalizing marijuana.
The incoming Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, has also pledged a tougher line with authoritarian states such as Russia and China after the business-driven pragmatism of the Merkel years. Greens co-leader Baerbock is one of eight women in Germany’s first gender-balanced cabinet.
“That corresponds to the society we live in – half of the power belongs to women,” Scholz, who describes himself as a “feminist”, said this week.
Scholz and his team promise stability just as France braces for a bitterly fought presidential election next year and Europe grapples with the enduring aftershocks of Brexit.
However a vicious fourth Covid wave has already put the incoming coalition to the test.
“We have to make a fresh start while facing down the corona pandemic – those are the circumstances the new government is up against,” Scholz told reporters Tuesday, flanked by his designated finance and economy ministers, Christian Lindner and Robert Habeck.
More than 103,000 people have died with coronavirus in Germany while new infections have surged since the weather turned cold, filling intensive care units to the breaking point.
Scholz has thrown his weight behind Germany following Austria in making jabs mandatory to get the pandemic under control, as experts say the worst is still to come for the country’s struggling clinics. He aims to have parliament vote on the issue before the year is out with a view to implementing the law in February or March.
Merkel, 67, Germany’s first woman chancellor, is retiring from politics after four consecutive terms, the first post-war leader to step aside of her own accord. She leaves big shoes to fill, with large majorities of Germans approving of her leadership, even if her own party, the conservative Christian Democrats, often bridled against her moderate course.
“For 16 years, Angela Merkel defined the political centre,” columnist Nikolas Blome said.
“If she were running again, she would win a fifth term,” he added, saying it was nevertheless time for new blood.
Despite being from a rival party, Scholz tapped into that well of popular support in his bid to succeed her.
The left-leaning daily Tageszeitung recently joked about the similarities between the two politicians on its front page, with the pandemic-era headline “Merkel Variant Prevails” and a picture of a grinning Scholz.
Her successor has however pledged to tackle the widening gap between rich and poor under Merkel.
The independent Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) said in an analysis of the coalition pact that lower-income Germans and parents stood to gain the most from its policy roadmap.
Meanwhile Greens supporters are banking on billions flowing toward climate protection and renewable energy, even as the government pledges to return to a no-new-debt rule by 2023.
Thu, 12/09/2021 – 02:00
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