Germany’s new chancellor Olaf Scholz sworn in, ending Angela Merkel era

Social Democrat Olaf Scholz has been sworn in as Germany’s new chancellor, ending 16 years of conservative rule under Angela Merkel and paving the way for a pro-European coalition government that has promised to boost green investment.

Scholz, 63, who served as vice-chancellor and finance minister in Merkel’s outgoing government, got a clear majority on Wednesday of 395 votes from lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, Bundestag President Baerbel Bas said.

There were six abstentions.

Scholz exchanged fist bumps with lawmakers from across the political spectrum. He nodded wearing a face mask and waved as he received a standing ovation, receiving bouquets of flowers from the leaders of the parliamentary groups.

He was formally named as chancellor by Germany’s president and sworn in by the speaker of parliament later on Wednesday.

Merkel, 67, who is no longer a member of parliament, looked on from the spectators’ gallery as parliament voted. She has said she will not seek another political role after shepherding Germany through a turbulent era. She has not disclosed any future plans but said earlier this year that she will take time to read and sleep, “and then let’s see where I show up”.

After being nominated by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Bellevue Palace, Scholz returned to parliament to take the oath of office in front of the lawmakers.

Merkel is handing over the chancellery to the new leader of Europe’s largest economy, which is facing a brutal fourth wave of coronavirus infections.

With his down-to-earth and no-nonsense manner, Scholz has positioned himself as Merkel’s natural successor and a safe pair of hands to steer Germany through challenges ranging from tackling the climate crisis to dealing with a more confrontational Russia and a more assertive China.