Sunday, January 16, 2022

The newly elected German parliament meets for the first time

BERLIN (NWN) – The newly elected German parliament has held its first meeting. The 736-member Lower House, or Bundestag, on Tuesday elected Berbel Bas from the center-left Social Democrats, who pulled out of elections last month as the strongest party, as their new speaker.

The meeting was attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, although she is no longer an MP. She sat in the stands of parliament. This afternoon, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will formally sack Merkel and her cabinet, although they will be asked to remain as a temporary post until a new government arrives.

“Citizens are looking at us and their expectations from parliament are rightly high,” said Wolfgang Schäuble, a previous speaker. “We must all continue to do our best to meet their expectations.”

Schäuble, 79, a veteran conservative former finance and interior minister, has been the longest-serving member of parliament. He has been an MP since 1972.

In his opening speech, Schäuble also called for a swift reform of the electoral law to prevent further inflation of the Bundestag. Now it has a record 736 deputies – compared with 709 for the last term.

The new Speaker of Parliament, Bas, has been a member of the Bundestag since 2009. The 53-year-old woman was her party’s deputy parliamentary group leader in the outgoing parliament and her spokesperson for health, education and research.

The German Political Convention states that the speaker is the largest party in the Bundestag, and the rest of the parties receive deputy speakers.

The three parties that hope to form Germany’s new government said last week that they are aiming to appoint the country’s next chancellor in early December, but admitted they face a daunting task.

Social Democrats, green environmentalists, and pro-business Free Democrats have begun formal talks on the coalition following a preliminary agreement signed earlier this month that outlined their priorities but left many questions open.

Negotiating the German coalition is a carefully crafted event that will result in an agreement detailing the government’s program for its four-year term. They tend to get longer over the years as the country’s political landscape has become fragmented, meaning that elections rarely provide a parliamentary majority for traditional allies.

If negotiations are successful, the new government will send Merkel’s center-right Soyuz bloc into opposition after 16 years at the helm. She will be succeeded by Olaf Scholz, who led the Social Democrats to a narrow victory in the September 26 elections. He is the vice-chancellor and finance minister in the current government.

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Follow NWN coverage of Germany’s transition to new government at https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election

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