Germany’s Social Democrats have struck a coalition deal with the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats for the first time in the nation’s history. The former finance minister, Olaf Scholz, is poised to become the next chancellor.
The new coalition agreement was sealed on Tuesday, after all three parties’ members voted in favor of it over the weekend. The Greens were the last to release their vote results on Monday.
Olaf Scholz, the former vice-chancellor and finance minister in Angela Merkel’s fourth cabinet, is now on his way to becoming the fourth Social Democratic chancellor in Germany’s post-war history, after Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schroeder.
Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is set to go into opposition with their Bavarian allies from the Christian Social Union (CSU) for the first time since 2005.
Scholz’s Social Democrats are also poised to take over the Defense, Interior, and Health Ministries. The latter would now be led by Karl Lauterbach, a Social Democratic health expert, who become known during the Covid-19 pandemic for espousing rigid views on governmental measures and advocating stricter lockdown policies, and made some grim forecasts.
The incoming chancellor, Scholz himself expressed his support for mandatory vaccination in Germany and called on MPs to table such a bill before the year’s end.
The Greens’ chancellor candidate in the September elections and the party’s co-chair, Annalena Baerbock, will become Germany’s new foreign minister. Her Greens co-leader, Robert Habeck, is poised to become a “super-minister” and will control economic, climate and energy policies. The Free Democrats’ leader, Christian Lindner, will take over the post of finance minister.
The coalition agreement was first unveiled by the three parties in late November under the slogan “Dare more progress.” The three-part bloc vowed to modernize Europe’s largest economy by investing heavily to upgrade the national infrastructure and develop green industries.
Under the deal, the new government plans to make it easier for migrants to apply for German passports and to allow dual citizenship, but also to introduce a points-based immigration system. Other policies involve phasing out coal by 2030 and getting up to 80% of the country’s energy from renewable sources, as well as increasing the minimum wage, tackling the housing crisis, lowering the voting age to 16, and legalizing the regulated sale of cannabis.
The September elections saw a major shift in the German political landscape as the Social Democrats declared a narrow victory over the right-of-center CDU in a tight race, following Angela Merkel’s four consecutive terms as chancellor. The long-time leader decided not to stand for a fifth term in office.