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Goodbye, Angela Merkel. Hello, Olaf Scholz

3 German parties reach deal on new government, with Social Democrat now at the helm as chancellor
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 24, 2021 9:25 AM CST
Meet Germany's Chancellor-to-Be
Olaf Scholz, second from right, as well as Green Party leaders Annalena Baerbock, second from left, and Robert Habeck, left, and Free Democratic Party chief Christian Lindner, right, attend a joint news conference in Berlin on Oct. 15, 2021.   (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

(Newser) – Three German parties have reached a deal to form a new government that will end the era of longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to Olaf Scholz, who's poised to replace her. Scholz, of the center-left Social Democrats, said he expects that members of the parties will give their blessing to the deal in the next 10 days. At a news conference, Scholz and other leaders gave some indications of how the coalition would govern. Among the first measures agreed: compulsory vaccinations in places where particularly vulnerable people are cared for, with the option of expanding that rule, per the AP. That comes as Germany is seeing a surge in cases, and the political transition has somewhat hampered the country's response.

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Scholz also stressed the importance of a sovereign Europe, friendship with France, and partnership with the United States as key cornerstones of the government's foreign policy, continuing a long postwar tradition. The new government will not seek "the lowest common denominator, but the politics of big impacts," Scholz promised. Robert Habeck, co-leader of the environmentalist Green Party, meanwhile, said measures planned by the government would put Germany on a path to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

The Social Democrats have been negotiating with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats since narrowly winning a national election on Sept. 26. The negotiations over the alliance were relatively harmonious and speedy compared to previous coalition talks. But the alliance is a potentially uneasy mixture because it brings together two traditionally left-leaning parties with one, the Free Democrats, that has tended to ally with the center-right. If party members sign off on the deal, the three-way alliance—which has never yet been tried in a national government—will replace the current "grand coalition" of the country's traditional big parties.

The Social Democrats have served as the junior partner to Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats. Merkel, who didn't run for a fifth term, is expected to be succeeded by Scholz, 63, who has been her finance minister and vice chancellor since 2018. The three would-be governing parties have said they hope parliament will elect Scholz as chancellor in the week beginning Dec. 6. Before that can happen, the deal requires approval from a ballot of the Greens' roughly 125,000-strong membership and from conventions of the other two parties. News of the deal came as Merkel led what was likely to be her last Cabinet meeting. Scholz presented the 67-year-old, who has led Germany since 2005, with a bouquet of flowers.

(Read more Olaf Scholz stories.)

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