Sunday, December 5, 2021

German parliament elects new speaker as Merkel steps aside

For the first time since last month’s elections, Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, met on Tuesday to elect a new speaker from the victorious center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), which will chair the 736-member body.

Berbel Bas, 53, from the West German city of Duisburg, has been in the Bundestag since 2009. She was the deputy leader of the SPD parliamentary group in the last parliament and her representative for health, education and research.

Upon her election, she noted the diversity of the new parliament and urged her fellow legislators “to reach out to many people in this country, especially those who have not considered themselves converted politicians for a long time.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the meeting and, since she is no longer a member of parliament, watched her from the visitors’ gallery. Merkel has been Germany’s chancellor for the past 16 years.

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Later on Tuesday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was to formally ouster Merkel and her cabinet, although they will be asked to remain as a temporary post until the new government comes to power.

The SPD won the majority of seats in parliamentary elections but failed to achieve a clear majority and is working with environmental greens and pro-business Free Democrats to form Germany’s new government.

The parties said last week that they hope to appoint the country’s next chancellor – most likely SPD leader Olaf Scholz – by early December, but admitted they still have a lot of work to do.

Some information for this report comes from AP, Reuters and AFP.

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