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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Scholz takes over as Chancellor of Germany, replacing Merkel

BERLIN ( Associated Press) — Social Democrat leader Olaf Scholz became Germany’s ninth chancellor on Wednesday after World War II, beginning a new era in the European Union’s most populous country following Angela Merkel’s 16-year rule.

The Scholz government takes the reins with high hopes of modernizing Germany and combating climate change, but faced the immediate challenge of managing the country’s worst wave of infections in the coronavirus pandemic.

He was elected with six votes from 395-303 votes. Their three-party alliance has 416 seats in the 736-member House. The difference is not unusual when foreign ministers are elected, and some MPs were on sick leave or in quarantine.

The Social Democratic leader was officially appointed by the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He later returned to Parliament to take the oath of office before the Speaker of the Parliament. The new chancellor, who is not religious, removed the alternative phrase “with God’s help” from the oath, as did Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder.

Merkel, who is no longer part of parliament, took part in the vote from the visitors’ box. At the beginning of the session, MPs gave him a standing ovation.

At a handover ceremony at the chancellor, Merkel wished Scholz the best. “Take possession of this house and work with it for the betterment of the country,” he said. Scholz thanked Merkel for her work, saying: “You left your mark on this country.”

Merkel, 67, said she would not seek another political position and did not mention any future plans on Wednesday. This year, Merkel said she would take time to read and sleep “and then we’ll see.”

Scholz, 63, who had been deputy chancellor and finance minister since 2018, brings vast experience and discipline to a fledgling coalition of his Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats, a pro-business party. The three parties have described the combination of old rivals as a progressive coalition that will bring new energy to the country after Merkel’s record time.

“We begin a new journey that addresses the great challenges of this decade and beyond,” Scholz said on Tuesday. If the parties are successful, he said, “the mandate is to be re-elected together in the next elections.”

The new government aims to double down on efforts against climate change by expanding the use of renewable energy and moving the phase-out of coal-fired electricity from 2038 to “ideally” 2030. It wants to do more to modernize the country, including addressing the well-known shortcomings of their cellular and Internet networks.

In addition, it plans to adopt more progressive social policies, such as legalizing the sale of cannabis for recreational purposes and making it easier to obtain German citizenship, although the Coalition has vowed to double down on efforts to deport those immigrants. Promised those who do not take refuge. The partners want to lower the voting age in national elections from 18 to 16.

The new government also plans to raise the minimum wage to 12 euros ($13.50) per hour from the current 9.60 euros. Scholz has said that this means “an increase in wages for 10 million people.” The coalition has promised that 400,000 new apartments will be built annually in an effort to curb rising rental prices.

Scholz has opted for continuity in foreign policy, saying the government will defend a strong EU and contribute to the transatlantic alliance.

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