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Social Democrat Olaf Scholz elected as Germany’s next chancellor

Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats was appointed the ninth chancellor of modern Germany in a short ceremony at the presidential palace in Berlin on Wednesday, before returning to parliament to be sworn in.

Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats was appointed the ninth chancellor of modern Germany in a short ceremony at the presidential palace in Berlin on Wednesday, before returning to parliament to be sworn in.

Scholz had earlier received parliament’s backing to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, with members of the Bundestag voting overwhelmingly along party lines in the secret ballot.

Scholz garnered 395 of the 707 votes cast, well above the 369-vote majority required in the 736-seat Bundestag.

His Social Democrats (SPD), together with the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), have 416 seats in the new parliament elected in September. Several members of parliament were absent owing to illness.

Scholz, who served as Merkel’s deputy and finance minister in the outgoing grand coalition then went to Bellevue Palace in Berlin, where President Frank-Walter Steinmeier formally appointed him.

His centre-left Cabinet, made up of eight male and eight female ministers, will be the first coalition of its kind at federal level in Germany, which has generally only seen two-party coalitions in Berlin. The SPD has put up seven members, the Greens five and the FDP four.

The election puts a Social Democrat at the head of a German government for the first time in 16 years, after Merkel succeeded Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor in 2005. Schroeder was in the Bundestag to watch as Scholz was voted in.

The new coalition has set itself the targets of combatting the coronavirus pandemic and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A large rise in the statutory minimum wage is also planned.

Scholz, 63, has a long political career behind him, as mayor of the city-state of Hamburg and finance minister and vice chancellor in Merkel’s Cabinet during the past four years.

The election brought Merkel’s 16-year-rule to an end. Farewells were already coming in on Wednesday, including one from French President Emmanuel Macron.

From China, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang offered their congratulations to Scholz in a phone call. Chinese state television reported that Xi had called for an expansion in cooperation between their two countries to take relations “to a new level.”

Xi described China and Germany as “strategic partners” who treated each other with mutual respect, while setting their differences aside, the report said.

Merkel, who is bowing out of active politics at the age of 67, was in the Bundestag to watch the vote, seating herself in the section reserved for guests of the house.

On being welcomed to the house by the president of the Bundestag, all the members stood to give her a warm round of applause, apart from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has 83 members.

The September elections gave the SPD a narrow majority in relation to Merkel’s conservative bloc, made up of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

The full Cabinet was to be sworn in later on Wednesday. The outgoing ministers were to hand over formally to the new, with Scholz surrendering the finance portfolio to Christian Lindner, the FDP leader.

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