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Germany bids Angela Merkel farewell as Olaf Scholz takes the reins as chancellor

Germany swears in new chancellor
Germany swears in new chancellor 05:19

Berlin — German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped down on Wednesday after 16 years in power, and Olaf Scholz took the helm as the next leader of Europe's biggest economy. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier formally appointed Scholz as Merkel's successor on Wednesday after the parliament elected him chancellor.

Scholz will head a three-way governing coalition consisting of the social democrat SPD party, the Greens and the liberal FDP.

Merkel formally handed over the reins to her successor on Wednesday afternoon, and for the German public it was a bittersweet goodbye.

Germany New Government
New elected German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, gives flowers to former Chancellor Angela Merkel during a handover ceremony in the chancellery in Berlin, December 8, 2021. Markus Schreiber/AP

Merkel has not only defined a political era in her country, but managed to remain one of the most popular leaders in recent European history. Her long tenure alone shows that she understood what the majority of Germans want.

Merkel has consistently been a moderating and stabilizing force in the European bloc, but rarely sought to shape policy. She stood for stability and became the most recognizable face of Germany to the world in a generation — all while keeping her country at the forefront of European economic and political leadership.

But she will be remembered differently by people around the world.

Some liberal-leaning Americans saw her as the de-facto leader of the Western free world during the United States' own turn to conservatism under Donald Trump — a role Merkel never wanted. In France, many saw her unpretentious leadership style as a refreshing contrast to their own presidents. 

Germany sends off Merkel with ceremony 05:37

The man who will attempt to fill her shoes, Olaf Scholz, has sought to portray himself as a new steady hand, focused first and foremost on domestic policy.

Among other things, his new government wants to extend rent control policies and build 400,000 new apartments every year, including 100,000 in social housing. A rent freeze is to be introduced in regions with tight housing markets.

On the climate, Scholz has promoted a massive expansion of sustainable energy generation in Germany. By 2030, Germany hopes to obtain 80% of its electricity from renewable sources.

Germany votes on replacement for Merkel 06:32

The new government wants to strengthen public transport networks and hike the minimum wage to 12 euros (about $13.50) per hour from the current rate of just under 10 euros.

To protect German soldiers deployed abroad, Scholz's coalition wants to change the country's laws to allow the arming of drone aircraft. 

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