Berlin (Associated Press)-On Wednesday, the German parliament elected Olaf Scholz as the country’s ninth chancellor after World War II, for the EU’s most populous country and largest economy in Angra. Angela Merkel opened a new era after 16 years in office.
When the Schultz administration took office, it had high hopes for Germany’s modernization and response to climate change, but it faced the direct challenge of dealing with the country’s most difficult phase of the coronavirus pandemic so far.
Legislators voted for Schultz as prime minister with 395 votes to 303, with six abstentions. His three-party coalition has 416 seats in the 736-seat lower house of parliament.
Schultz exchanged fists with legislators from different political fields. He will be officially appointed as Chancellor by the President of Germany and will be sworn in by the Speaker of Parliament later on Wednesday.
Merkel, who is no longer a member of parliament, watched from the audience while voting in parliament. When the meeting began, the lawmakers stood up and applauded.
The 63-year-old Schultz has served as Germany’s Deputy Chancellor and Minister of Finance since 2018. He brings a wealth of experience to his untested coalition of the center-left Social Democratic Party, the environmentalist Green Party, and the pro-business Liberal Democratic Party. And discipline. The three parties portray the unity of their former rivals as a progressive alliance that will bring new vitality to the country after Merkel approaches a record-breaking term.
Schultz said on Tuesday: “We are taking a risk to embark on a new journey to meet the major challenges of this decade and beyond.” He added that if the party succeeds, “it is the task of being re-elected together in the next election.”
The new government’s goal is to step up efforts to combat climate change by expanding the use of renewable energy and withdrawing Germany from coal-fired power generation plans from 2038 (“ideally” to 2030). It also hopes to make more efforts to modernize the country, including improving its notoriously bad mobile phone and Internet networks.
It also plans to develop more liberal social policies, including legalizing the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes, and relaxing access to German citizenship, while promising to increase efforts to expel immigrants who have not been granted asylum. Alliance partners hope to reduce the voting age for national elections from 18 to 16.
The government also plans to increase the minimum wage in Germany from the current 9.60 euros per hour to 12 euros ($13.50), which Scholz said “means an increase of 10 million in wages.” The alliance also pledged to build 400,000 new apartments every year to curb rent increases.
Schultz has expressed the continuity of foreign policy, saying that the government will support a strong European Union and foster a transatlantic alliance.
The three-party alliance brings opportunities and risks to all participants, perhaps most of the Green Party. After 16 years of opposition, they must prove that they can achieve the overall goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while working with partners who may have other priorities.
Robert Harbeck, the co-leader of the Green Party, will serve as Schultz’s deputy prime minister, leading a reformed Ministry of Economy and Climate. The third official in the government will be Treasury Secretary and Liberal Democratic Party leader Christian Lindner, who insists that the coalition refuses to increase taxes and relax restrictions on debt increases.
The incoming government portrays itself as a “major coalition” that deviates in style and substance from the traditional German party led by Merkel. In addition to her four-year term, the Social Democratic Party is a junior partner.
In those tense alliances, partners sometimes seem to be preoccupied with plans to stop each other. During Merkel’s last tenure, there were frequent infights, some of which were in her own center-right coalition group, until the pandemic hit. The legacy she left when she left was mainly determined by her handling of a series of crises, rather than any grand vision for Germany.
Schultz told his party last weekend that Merkel’s group was “difficult” to govern, and his Social Democrats defeated the group by a narrow margin in the September elections in Germany. He criticized the EU bloc for “this far from further conservatism.”
The agreement to form a coalition government between the three political parties that were more divergent before the election was reached relatively quickly and unexpectedly harmoniously.
“If our good cooperation during the formation of the government continues to play a role, it will be a very, very good time for the tasks before us,” Scholz said. He admitted that responding to the pandemic “will require all our strength and energy.”
German federal and state leaders announced strict new restrictions last week, mainly for people who have not been vaccinated. In the long run, Parliament will consider general vaccine authorization. This fall, the number of daily COVID-19 infections in Germany rose to a record level, although it may be stabilizing now and hospitals are also feeling the pressure. To date, more than 103,000 cases of COVID-19 have died in the pandemic in the country.
Merkel has said that after leading Germany through a turbulent era, she will not seek another political role. The 67-year-old did not reveal any future plans, but said earlier this year that she would spend time reading and sleeping, “Then let us see where I will appear.”
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