New chancellor of Germany shows promise


Marco Verch | Flickr

Maxim Sasak

After 16 years, Germany is finally getting a new chancellor. In a run that almost beat the record of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Angela Merkel will officially step down as German chancellor on what many presume to be Dec. 6.

Throughout her time as chancellor, Merkel not only shaped the lives of many young aspiring women in Germany and across the globe, but also left a profound mark on the politics of her country and the region.

This turn of events begs the question, who will fill this power vacuum, and will they be able to successfully take over the reins and lead the country forward?

The individual in poll position to claim the title of chancellor is Olaf Scholz. Scholz holds an impressive portfolio; he held the title of mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018, the incumbent minister of finance from 2018 and the position of vice-chancellor from 2018.

Scholz tipped out the favorite and Merkel’s ascribed “heir,” Armin Laschet, in a marginal victory in September, charting 25.7% for the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and 24.1% for the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU).

These results were followed by Die Grunen, The Greens, who charted a third-place finish gathering 14.8% of the vote, the best results in their history. Following them were the Free Democratic Party (FDP) with 11.5% and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) with only 10.3% of the votes.

All this may seem rather obscure from the American perspective, as in the United States we are used to a Presidential election which relies upon voting for “electoral college members,” while in Germany and across much of the world, an election is based upon a system called the “Parliamentary Election,” in which the first vote is for a direct candidate, who is required to receive a plurality vote in their electoral district.

The second vote is used to elect a party list in each state as established by its respective party caucus. The Bundestag,Germany’s “Congress”/Parliament, comprises seats representing each electoral district, with the remainder of seats being allocated to maintain proportionality based on the second vote.

As of this, although Scholz and the SPD have accumulated the highest percentage of votes, their victory is simply theoretical for now because the SPD does not hold the majority of seats within the Bundestag. To achieve this, and thereby victory, a coalition must form.

Currently, the most likely result will be the “Traffic light coalition,” as in corresponding to the colors of a traffic light, a union between the SPD, the “reds,” Die Grunen, the “greens” and the FDP, the “yellows.”

Such a union would allow Scholz and his coalition to gain a majority in the parliament with 376 seats out of a total 700, and therefore officially win the election.

From a purely ideological point of view, Scholz intends to lead Germany into a future of change.

He and his constituents are firm believers in the progressively increasing role of renewable energy. This is underpinned by the ambition to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, eliminate coal as soon as possible and extend the European-wide expansion of Germany’s carbon price.

“His key message was: Focus on renewables expansion because otherwise there will not be enough clean electricity for all other decarbonisation plans, from e-mobility to heating, green hydrogen production and infrastructure modernisation,” according to the Clean Energy Wire.

Furthermore, during his election campaign, Scholz underlined the importance of Germany achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2040, through solar installations on all suitable roofs, upermarkets, town halls, and schools. He emphasizes a pact for the future, bolstered by states and local authorities who are given binding renewable targets.

Amid these tides of change it is essential that some “traditions” are preserved.

Although Scholz emphasizes looking to the future and what ways his nation can change its current system to better tackle critical issues like the climate crisis, he also recognizes that some things must be kept.

One such thing is a strong connection to the European Union.

Despite initial speculations upon what kind of policy Scholz would ascribe to relations with the EU, it has been made clear that he strives to “form a stronger and more sovereign European Union.”

In his keynote speech, Scholz noted that his ambition would only be possible with expanded safety net for all members of the EU explaining that the bills passed for a first 540 billion Euro package and a 700 billion package contain an immense historical significance, and should be a guideline for future multilateral support within the EU.

Further, he emphasized that it is of huge importance that the EU maintains its strong role for responsible governments and that European governments need to guarantee a level of social security with a special emphasis on solidarity.

Finally, he makes it clear that a rethinking of the resource system within the EU is not only pertinent but essential for a secure future.

As has been typical to the United States and German relations since the end of the Cold War, the essence of the relationship lies within the question of balance.

An elemental structure of a German policy as not only an economic powerhouse, but as the core of the EU, is finding a balance between positive relations with the United States, and equally positive relations with China.

Due to the contemporary “hawkish” nature of the United States and China relations, finding such an equilibrium has come at the price of uneasy relations and increased pressure from both sides, which will only increase as time progresses.

Despite the stated nature of affairs between Germany and the United States, change may lie on the horizon.

Scholz may face increased pressure from not only that of his party who underlined a yearning for an improvement of transatlantic relations, but also from his coalition partners, the greens and the liberals, who both seek to distance Germany from China due to human rights violations occurring within the nationand the government’s lackluster approach to climate targets.

Although he has some big shoes to fill, Scholz is not only a leader that is well-prepared to take the reins from Merkel but also to lead Germany into an era of progress and vitality. Only time will tell whether Scholz is able to live up to his campaign ideals or the legacy left by his predecessor.