Monday, January 17, 2022
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Olaf Scholz voted in as German chancellor, ending the Merkel era

Germany has officially elected Olaf Scholz as the country’s chancellor, bringing the curtain down on Angela Merkel’s 16-year rule.

Lawmakers on Wednesday voted by 395-303 to elect Scholz as chancellor, with six abstentions.

He becomes the country’s ninth post-World War II leader. He exchanged fist bumps with colleagues and will be named as chancellor by Germany’s president and 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.

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.

The 63-year-old heads an untried coalition of his center-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.

The three parties are portraying their uniting 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.

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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 don’t win asylum.

The coalition partners want to lower the voting age in national elections from 18 to 16.


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