Social Democrat Olaf Scholz was sworn in as the new Federal Chancellor, ended 16 years of conservative government under Angela Merkel and paved the way for a pro-European coalition government that has promised to promote green investments.
A minister in Merkel’s outgoing government won a clear majority of 395 votes from the Bundestag member on Wednesday, said Bundestag President Bärbel Bas.
Scholz exchanged punches with lawmakers from across the political spectrum. He nodded with a face mask and saluted with a standing ovation and received bouquets of flowers from the group leaders.
The Federal President officially appointed him Chancellor and was sworn in. Merkel, 67, who is no longer in parliament, watched the parliamentary vote from the audience. He has not revealed future plans, but said earlier this year that he would take time to read and sleep, “and then let’s see where I turn 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.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Berlin, said it was “an historic day for Germany”.
“A whole generation grew up with Angela Merkel,” she said. “Scholz is seen as calm and charismatic. He has promised change.”
French President Emmanuel Macron congratulated Scholz, pledging “we will write the next chapter together” while EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said she looked forward to working together for a “strong Europe”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was offering “constructive ties” with the new government, while China’s Xi Jinping said Beijing was willing to work with Scholz to promote bilateral ties to a new level.