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Olaf Scholz, Sworn In As German Chancellor, Bringing An End To Angela Merkel’s 16-year Reign

The Oasis Reporters

December 9, 2021


Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Olaf Scholz…in, Angela Merkel…out.

A Social Democrat who served as Merkel’s finance minister, Scholz consistently presented himself as her natural successor while also forging his own political path. He “cast himself very much in the same leadership style that Angela Merkel put forward too—a sort of very pragmatic, sometimes a bit dry, austere style of leadership,” said Sophia Besch, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier appointed Social Democrat Olaf Scholz as German Chancellor on Dec. 8 after he was elected with a clear majority, according to Reuters news agency.

Scholz will have a lot on his plate. From confronting surging COVID-19 cases, to countering China and Russia, Germany is facing mounting crises. “He’s going to have to find his footing, but he’s an experienced politician and a good manager,” said Besch. “I’m optimistic.”

After nearly 16 years of a conservative leadership defined by crisis management, Scholz faces high expectations to fulfill his government’s headline promise of “dare more progress.”

Once in power, Scholz will head a three-way coalition consisting of his center-left Social Democratic Party, the progressive Greens, and the pro-business Free Democrats—a grouping of parties that has never ruled together before. The coalition is set to focus on raising the minimum wage and combating climate change, among other goals.

Under Scholz, the German cabinet will also reach a major milestone: achieving gender parity for the first time. “Security will lie in the hands of strong women in this government,” Scholz said. “I’m very proud that we have succeeded in realizing this.”

With Scholz’s promises of “continuity,” radical foreign policy shifts are unlikely. Like Merkel, Scholz has signaled his commitment to bolstering the European Union and deepening transatlantic ties. “He has been clear on the campaign trail that he believes in a fundamentally strong transatlantic relationship, and also that Germany is fully embedded in the idea of Europe,” said Sudha David-Wilp, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

One of his most pressing challenges will be the pandemic. As Germany faces skyrocketing infection rates, Scholz has advocated mandatory vaccines. Last week, officials also announced plans to bar unvaccinated Germans from certain restaurants, stores, and public venues. “You can’t callously watch the situation as it is right now,” Scholz said. “If we had a higher vaccination rate, we would have a different situation”.

There may be more spending to come, with the country struggling to break a fourth wave of infections and raise its vaccination rate, as Germany tightens rules that target the unvaccinated amid covid spike

Germany faces a long-term nursing shortage, an aging population and a housing crisis, which has exacerbated homelessness and put more pressure on the middle class.

Climate advocates have acknowledged the new government’s tougher measures, such as “ideally” phasing out coal by 2030 and nearly doubling renewable energy by then, but also say they are insufficient to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

Then there’s the immediate geopolitical crisis that may land on Scholz’s hands. There are calls on Germany from allies to kill the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. The pipeline is complete, but it faces German regulatory hurdles before Russian gas can start flowing. The allies are saying so because Russia is once again massing troops on Ukraine’s border.

The next few days of post-Merkel’s Germany would be interesting to watch.

Washington Post
Foreign Policy

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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