Olaf Scholz elected German chancellor by Bundestag

Olaf Scholz was elected Germany’s new chancellor at the helm of an unprecedented three-party coalition that has promised a fresh start for Europe’s largest economy.

Scholz succeeds Angela Merkel, who is retiring from politics after 16 years as chancellor. The former finance minister was elected on Wednesday with 395 votes of the 736-seat Bundestag, with 303 against.

He will lead a coalition made up of his left-of-centre Social Democrats (SPD), the environmental Greens and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP). It has been dubbed a “traffic light” alliance because the three parties’ traditional colours are red, green and yellow.

The new government has agreed an ambitious plan to vastly expand Germany’s renewables capacity, speed up its exit from coal power and put 15m electric cars on Germany’s roads by 2030. It also plans to raise the minimum wage and build 400,000 new flats a year, a quarter of them subsidised by the state.

Before Scholz’s election on Wednesday, Merkel was warmly applauded by MPs as she took her place in the Bundestag’s public gallery next to Germany’s former president Joachim Gauck.

Scholz comes to power with Germany in the grip of a huge upsurge in coronavirus cases that is swamping its hospitals. The new chancellor has embraced the idea of mandatory vaccinations as a means of raising the country’s stubbornly low inoculation rate.

Scholz’s elevation to the chancellery caps a long career in politics that has seen him occupy a broad range of government roles. He was federal labour minister during the global financial crisis and mayor of Hamburg, one of Germany’s largest cities, from 2011-18.

But he was often mistrusted by many in his party. He came under fire from leftwingers for his support of reforms to the German labour market and welfare system launched by the former SPD chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, in the early 2000s.

He lost the contest for the leadership of the SPD in 2019. But a year later, he was chosen as the party‘s candidate for chancellor and led it to a narrow victory over Merkel’s centre-right CDU/CSU in September’s Bundestag election.

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