by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times
December 8, 2021
BERLIN — Following Angela Merkel’s 16-year reign as chancellor, Olaf Scholz was elected as Germany’s new chancellor on Wednesday, ushering in a new era for the European Union’s most populous country and greatest economy.
Scholz’s government starts office with the goal of modernizing Germany, combating climate change, and dealing with coronavirus pandemic.
Scholz was elected with a large majority of 395 to 303 votes, with six abstentions, in the 736-seat lower house of parliament.
Scholz, 63, has served as Germany’s vice chancellor and finance minister since 2018, bringing a wealth of expertise and discipline to an untested coalition of his center-left Social Democrats, the pro-business Greens, and the pro-environment Free Democrats. The three parties are framing their coalition as a progressive one that will breathe new life into the country following Merkel’s near-record term in government.
Scholz, an unflappable and extremely self-assured personality who has shown a proclivity for quickly overcoming setbacks in the past, smiled as he was elected and formally appointed by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Scholz, like Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, has no religious allegiance and deleted the optional words “so help me God” from his oath of office.
Merkel has stated that she will not pursue a new political position. The 67-year-old hasn’t specified what her intentions are for the future, but she did say earlier this year that she’ll “take some time to read and sleep, and then let’s see where I show up.”
The Scholz regime intends to increase efforts to combat climate change by growing the use of renewable energy and bringing Germany’s coal-fired power plant exit forward from 2038 to 2030. It also intends to modernize the 83 million-strong country, including strengthening the country’s notoriously inadequate cellular and internet networks.
Scholz also plans to implement more liberal social policies, including as legalizing the recreational use of cannabis and easing the path to German citizenship, while committing to make more efforts to deport immigrants who do not qualify for asylum.
In order to combat growing rental prices, the government also aims to raise Germany’s minimum wage and build hundreds of thousands of new flats.
Scholz has hinted that the government’s foreign policy will remain consistent, stating that the government will fight for a robust European Union and foster the trans-Atlantic relationship.
According to the administration, Scholz plans to go to Brussels to meet with EU and NATO officials.
Scholz’s vice chancellor will be Green co-leader Robert Habeck, who will manage a restructured economics and climate ministry. Christian Lindner, the finance minister and leader of the Free Democrats, will be the government’s No. 3 official, having pushed that the coalition reject tax hikes and looser debt limits.
The new government is presenting itself as a break in style and substance from Merkel’s “grand coalitions” of Germany’s conventional main parties, which she led for all but four years of her presidency, with the Social Democrats serving as junior partners.