Centre-left leader Olaf Scholz sworn in as German chancellor

8 December 2021, 12:34

Germany New Government
Germany New Government. Picture: PA

Lawmakers voted by 395-303 with six abstentions to elect Mr Scholz.

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
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”.

New German chancellor is congratulated
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”.

Angela Merkel
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.

Olaf Scholz is applauded
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.

The heads of the new German government
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.

Olaf Scholz
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.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Former Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita dies aged 76

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba

Ukraine claims Russia behind cyberattack in ‘hybrid war’

Vehicles navigate hazardous driving conditions in North Carolina

Tens of thousands without power as winter storm blasts US south-east

Breaking
The FBI have named the man who was shot dead in Texas  after taking four people hostage

FBI name Texas synagogue hostage taker as British Malik Faisal Akram

An undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga

Pacific tsunami threat recedes but volcano ash hinders response

Djokovic has lost his court case

Novak Djokovic leaves Australia after losing visa case as Serbian president blasts 'lies'

Benjamin Netanyahu

Former Israeli PM Netanyahu ‘negotiating plea deal in corruption case’

A shipment of Covid-19 vaccines distributed by the Covax Facility arrives in Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Covax programme delivers one billion vaccine doses to poorer countries

Authorities escort a hostage out of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas

Hostages released after stand-off at synagogue in Texas

A woman wearing a face mask to protect against Covid-19 sits near landscaping decorated with the logos for the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics on a pedestrian shopping street in Beijing

Beijing reports first local Omicron case ahead of Winter Olympics

Former Alabama quarterback Jay Barker and his wife, country music singer Sara Evans, arrive at the 46th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas in 2011

Former quarterback married to singer Sara Evans charged with domestic violence

Law enforcement officials gather at a local school near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue

Ranting man demands scientist’s release while taking hostages at Texas synagogue

Obit Italy Cerruti

Italian menswear innovator Nino Cerruti dies aged 91

Prince

Final valuation of Prince’s estate agreed at 156.4 million dollars

Tonga tsunami

Tsunami waves crash across shore as undersea volcano erupts near Tonga

A Tsunami warning has been issued for the West Coast of the United States

Tsunami warning issued for USA after underwater volcano erupts in Tonga