Olaf Scholz, Germany’s seventh post-World War II chancellor, is poised to assume office on Wednesday, following Angela Merkel after a 16-year reign.
Scholz’s administration will take power with lofty ambitions of modernizing the European Union’s most populous nation and combatting climate change, but it will have the immediate task of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic’s hardest phase yet.
Scholz, the 63-year-old vice chancellor and finance minister of Germany since 2018, brings a lot of expertise and discipline to an untested coalition of his center-left Social Democrats, ecological Greens, and pro-business Free Democrats. The three parties are framing their coalition as a progressive one that would breathe fresh life into the country following Merkel’s near-record term in government.
Scholz will need the backing of at least 369 members of parliament in the 736-seat lower house to be elected chancellor. Because the coalition partners have a total of 416 seats, he should have a solid majority.
As the session began, Merkel, who is no longer a member of parliament, watched from the audience. A standing ovation was given to her by the lawmakers.
“We are risking a new departure,” Scholz said on Tuesday, “one that takes up the main concerns of this decade and well beyond.” “That is a mandate to be re-elected jointly at the next election,” he said if the parties succeed.
The new administration wants to ramp up efforts to combat climate change by growing renewable energy consumption and pushing Germany’s coal-fired power phaseout from 2038 to “preferably” 2030. It also intends to modernize the country, including strengthening the country’s infamously inadequate cellular and internet networks.
It also intends to implement more liberal social policies, including as legalizing the recreational use of cannabis and simplifying the road to German citizenship, while committing to make more efforts to deport immigrants who do not qualify for asylum. The coalition partners aim to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 in national elections.
The minimum wage would rise from 9.60 euros to 12 euros ($13.50) per hour, according to Scholz, which “means a salary boost for 10 million people.” In addition, the alliance wants to build 400,000 additional residences every year in order to keep rental rates from growing.
Scholz has hinted that the government’s foreign policy would remain consistent, stating that the government will fight for a robust European Union and foster the trans-Atlantic relationship.
For all of the partners, probably most notably the Greens, the alliance presents both chances and hazards. They will have to prove that they can achieve their broad goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a three-way partnership with partners who may have different interests after 16 years of opposition.
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 head of the Free Democrats, will be the government’s No. 3 official, having pushed that the coalition reject tax rises and looser debt limits.
The new administration is presenting itself as a break in style and content 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.
In those uneasy partnerships, the partners appeared to be chiefly concerned with thwarting each other’s intentions. Until the epidemic, Merkel’s final term was marked by constant infighting, some of it inside her own center-right Union group. She leaves behind a legacy defined mostly by her lauded management of a succession of crises, rather than any major plans for Germany.
Scholz told his party last weekend that governing with Merkel’s bloc was “difficult.” Scholz’s Social Democrats narrowly defeated Merkel’s bloc in Germany’s September election. He called the bloc’s conservatism “this-far-and-no-further.”
The agreement to establish a coalition government amongst three parties that had major disagreements before to the election was achieved quickly and in surprising harmony.
“It will be a very, very excellent moment for the challenges that lay ahead of us if the wonderful collaboration that worked when we were building the government continues to operate,” Scholz added. He said that combating the epidemic will require “all of our might and energy.”
Last Monday, German federal and state officials announced stringent new restrictions aimed mostly at the unvaccinated. Parliament will contemplate a broad vaccination mandate in the long run. COVID-19 infections have reached new highs in Germany this autumn, though they may be stabilizing again, and hospitals are feeling the pressure. So far, the COVID-19 epidemic has claimed the lives of almost 103,000 people in the country.
Merkel has stated that she will not pursue another political position after guiding Germany through a difficult period. 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.”