Centre-left leader Olaf Scholz sworn in as German chancellor

Centre-Left Leader Olaf Scholz Sworn In As German Chancellor Centre-Left Leader Olaf Scholz Sworn In As German Chancellor
Germany New Government, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Geir Moulson, AP

Centre-left leader Olaf Scholz has become Germany’s new chancellor, opening a new era for the European Union’s most populous nation after Angela Merkel’s 16-year tenure.

Mr Scholz’s government takes office with high hopes of modernising Germany and combating climate change but faces the immediate challenge of handling the country’s toughest phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers voted by 395-303 with six abstentions to elect Mr Scholz — a comfortable majority though short of the 416 seats his three-party coalition holds in the 736-seat lower house of parliament. That is not unusual when chancellors are elected, and some lawmakers were out sick or in quarantine.

Angela Merkel arrives in the German Parliament (AP)

Mrs Merkel, who is no longer a member of parliament, looked on from the spectators’ gallery as parliament voted. Lawmakers gave her a standing ovation.


Mr Scholz, 63, Germany’s vice chancellor and finance minister since 2018, brings a wealth of experience and discipline to an untried coalition of his centre-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.

The three parties are portraying the combination of former rivals as a progressive alliance that will bring new energy to the country after Mrs Merkel’s near-record time in office.

“We are venturing a new departure, one that takes up the major challenges of this decade and well beyond that,” Mr Scholz said. If the parties succeed, he added, “that is a mandate to be re-elected together at the next election”.

Mr Scholz of the Social Democrats, right, is congratulated by Armin Laschet of the CDU (AP)

Mr Scholz, an unflappable and supremely self-confident figure who in the past has displayed an ability to put aside setbacks quickly, cracked a smile as he was elected and as he was formally appointed by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The new chancellor then returned to parliament to be sworn in. Mr Scholz, who has no religious affiliation, omitted the optional phrase “so help me God” from his oath of office, as did Mrs Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder.

Mrs Merkel has said she will not seek another political role. The 67-year-old said earlier this year that she will take time to read and sleep, “and then let’s see where I show up”.


Mrs Merkel was given a standing ovation in the chamber (dpa via AP)

The new government aims to step up efforts against climate change by expanding the use of renewable energy and bringing Germany’s exit from coal-fired power forward from 2038, “ideally” to 2030.

It also wants to do more to modernise the country, including improving its notoriously poor mobile phone and internet networks.

It also plans more liberal social policies, including legalizing the sale of cannabis for recreational purposes and easing the path to German citizenship while pledging greater efforts to deport immigrants who do not gain asylum.

The coalition partners want to lower the voting age in national elections from 18 to 16.

Members of parliament applaud Olaf Scholz (dpa via AP)

There will be an increase in the minimum wage to 12 euros (£10) per hour from the current 9.60 euro, which Mr Scholz has said “means a wage increase for 10 million”.

The coalition also aims to get 400,000 new apartments per year built in an effort to curb rising rental prices.

Mr Scholz has signalled continuity in foreign policy, saying the government will stand up for a strong European Union and nurture the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Mr Scholz with Free Democrats leader Christian Lindner and Robert Habeck, federal leader of the Greens (dpa via AP)


The alliance brings both opportunities and risks for all the participants, perhaps most of all the Greens.

After 16 years in opposition, they will have to prove that they can achieve their overarching aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in a three-way alliance with partners who may have other priorities.

Green co-leader Robert Habeck will be Mr Scholz’s vice chancellor, heading a revamped economy and climate ministry.

The agreement to form a coalition government between three parties that had significant differences before the election was reached relatively quickly and in unexpected harmony.

Mr Scholz faces a number of challenges, including tackling climate change and Covid-19 (AP)

“If the good cooperation that worked while we were forming the government continues to work, it will be a very, very good time for the tasks that lie ahead of us,” Mr Scholz said.

He acknowledged that dealing with the pandemic “will demand all our strength and energy”.

German federal and state leaders last week announced tough new restrictions that largely target unvaccinated people. In a longer-term move, parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate.

Germany has seen daily Covid-19 infections rise to record levels this fall, though they may now be stabilising, and hospitals are feeling the strain. The country has seen over 103,000 Covid-19 deaths in the pandemic so far.

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