Olaf Scholz succeeds Angela Merkel as German chancellor, opening new era

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NNPC report

Olaf Scholz became Germany’s ninth post-World War II chancellor today, opening a new era for the European Union’s most populous nation and largest economy after Angela Merkel’s 16-year tenure.

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 to elect Scholz, with six abstentions — a comfortable majority, though short of the 416 seats his three-party coalition holds in the 736-seat lower house of parliament. That’s not unusual when chancellors are elected, and some lawmakers were out sick.

Scholz exchanged fist bumps with lawmakers from across the political spectrum before German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier formally appointed him as chancellor. He was due to be sworn in by the speaker of parliament later Wednesday.

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

Olaf Scholz is congratulated after he was elected new German Chancellor in the German Parliament Bundestag in Berlin. Photo / AP

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 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,” Scholz said Tuesday. If the parties succeed, he added, “that is a mandate to be reelected together at the next election.”

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 cellphone and internet networks.

It also plans more liberal social policies, including legalising the sale of cannabis for recreational purposes and easing the path to German citizenship while pledging greater efforts to deport immigrants who don’t win asylum. The coalition partners want to lower the voting age in national elections from 18 to 16.

The government also plans to increase Germany’s minimum wage to 12 euros per hour from the current 9.60 euros, which Scholz has said “means a wage increase for 10 million.” And the coalition also pledged to get 400,000 new apartments per year built in an effort to curb rising rental prices.

Source: (nzherald.co.nz)

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