Speed Reads

Peaceful transfer of power

Germany's parliament elects Olaf Scholz chancellor, formally ending Angela Merkel's long tenure

The German parliament, or Bundestag, elected Olaf Scholz as the country's ninth post-World War II chancellor on Wednesday, a day after his center-left Social Democrats formalized a new government with the environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats parties. After the vote, Scholz met with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to formalize the appointment, and he will be sworn in Wednesday afternoon, officially ending Angela Merkel's 16 years in office. 

Merkel, 67, decided to retire after 31 years politics and did not stand for re-election in September's election, but she has stayed on as caretaker chancellor until the new government is sworn in. Scholz's party narrowly defeated Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social Union bloc, and his three-party coalition holds 416 seats in the 736-seat lower house of parliament. He was elected chancellor on a 395-303 vote, with six abstentions, as Merkel watched from the spectator gallery.

Scholz, 63, has been Germany's vice chancellor and finance minister since 2018, in a coalition government with Merkel's bloc. In the new government, Greens co-leaders Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock will be vice chancellor and foreign minister, respectively, while Free Democrats leader Christian Lindner will be finance minister. Habeck will also head a revamped economy and climate ministry. 

Scholz has signaled continuity in foreign policy with Merkel's government, but his coalition has ambition climate goals, including a quicker-than-planned phase-out of coal and switch to renewable energy sources. They have also prioritized modernizing Germany's mobile and internet networks. The new government's first priority, however, will be urgently tackling Germany's  COVID-19 pandemic.