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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Olaf Scholz elected to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor

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Olaf Scholz will succeed Angela Merkel as Germany’s new chancellor after securing a majority of 395 of 736 delegates’ ballots in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday morning.

Scholz will oversee a liberal-left “traffic light” coalition government between his Social Democratic party (SPD), the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic party (FDP), the first power-sharing agreement of such a kind in Germany, and the first governing alliance with three parties since 1957.

Scholz, a former mayor of Hamburg and finance minister in Merkel’s final term, secured 21 fewer votes than the 416 seats the three coalition parties have in the Bundestag, though several politicians were absent from the vote due to illness.

The Social Democrat politician, who removed his mask to accept the vote with a smirk, will head to the Bellevue Palace residence of the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to be formally appointed.

The new government is to be announced in parliament at 1.30pm CET, after which Scholz and the ministers in his cabinet will swear their oaths.

Merkel watched proceedings from the visitors’ gallery. The outgoing chancellor, who is ending her political career after leading the country for 5,860 days and will not continue as an MP, received a standing ovation from almost all delegates in the last minutes of her tenure. Only members of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland remained seated.

As the new president of the Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, read out the names of all delegates eligible to vote for the new chancellor, a mask-wearing Merkel scribbled furiously on a notepad.

Merkel will formally hand over her offices at the chancellory in central Berlin to Scholz and his team on Wednesday. The cube-like building opposite the parliament, nicknamed the “federal washing machine”, has been the seat of German leaders since 2001, making Scholz only the third chancellor to govern from its premises.

Scholz’s new spokesperson and representatives of the 14 federal ministers will hold their first press conference on Monday, in keeping with a thrice-weekly question-and-answer session with the media.

Merkel’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, has indicated his intention to withdraw from politics, with his tweets from the official government handle to be archived.

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