Olaf Scholz Sworn in as German Chancellor, New “Ampelkoalition” Government Begins
On December 8th, 2021, German Federal Chancellorship (Bundeskanzlerin) transferred from Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) to Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) Olaf Scholz (Social Democratic Party, SPD). The transition was made possible after a long period of post-election negotiations regarding the establishment of a viable coalition to run the new government, given the inviability of the previous “Grand Coalition” of the CDU and SPD, and the CDU’s lack of success in the election.
Scholz is of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), a moderate, slightly left-leaning political party and the oldest one represented in the Bundestag, the German Federal Parliament. The SPD celebrated a wave of victories across Germany this year, while the “Union” (a combination of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, CDU, and Christian Social Union of Bavaria, CSU), the party of former chancellor Merkel, experienced a debacle in its representation in the Bundestag.
Unlike the U.S, German elections use a parliamentary system in which democratically appointed representatives and political parties in the Bundestag vote for a chancellor, through an absolute majority. Because the German political system involves many parties and figures, it is highly uncommon for a single political party to gain an absolute majority, so after elections, parties must negotiate and establish coalitions to elect a chancellor.
This election, this led to the establishment of the Ampelkoalition (“traffic light coalition”), a union of Scholz’s Social Democrats, the classical liberal and pro-market Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the environmentalist Green Party of Germany, whose party symbols combined resemble a traffic light (red, yellow, and green for the SPD, FDP, and the Greens respectively).
After the establishment of a coalition, the next major task of the newly elected chancellor is to appoint ministers in the Bundeskabinett, who are similar to cabinet secretaries in the U.S. Given the three-party coalition, the new cabinet consists almost equally of members of the three parties of the Ampelkoalition. They are:
Robert Habeck (Green), Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection)
Christian Lindner (FDP), Minister for Finance
Nancy Faeser (SPD), Minister of the Interior
Annalena Baerbock (Green), Minister for Foreign Affairs
Marco Buschmann (FDP), Minister for Justice
Hubertus Heil (SPD), Minister for Labour and Social Affairs
Christine Lambrecht (SPD) Minister for Defence
Cem Özdemir (Green) Minister for Food and Agriculture
Anne Spiegel (Green), Minister for Families, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth
Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Minister for Health
Volker Wissing (FDP), Minister for Digital Affairs and Traffic
Steffi Lemke (Green), Minister for the Environment, Protection of Nature, Nuclear Security, and Consumer Protection
Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP), Minister for Education and Research
Svenja Schulze (SPD), Minister for Economic Collaboration and Development
Klara Geywitz (SPD), Minister for Housing, Urban Development, and Construction)
Wolfgang Schmidt (SPD, Head of the Federal Chancellery and Minister for Special Affairs)
The new government faces many challenges in the wake of its first term, in particular the ongoing Covid-19 wave in Germany—the largest since the beginning of the pandemic. Other issues include an aging society, a continued economic slump in the country's east, and growing populist wings.
Two parties in particular have brought this populism into view: Die Linke (the Left Party)—a populist left-wing party popular amongst those in East Germany who yearn for the return of a socialist state (also kown as “Ostalgie,” a variation of the German words for nostalgia, “Nostalgie,” and East, “Ost”), and the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a far-right party formed in 2013 that pushes xenophobic, isolationist, and nationalist rhetoric, which has resulted in its condemnation by all five other parties in the Bundestag. Although Angela Merkel is reputed for having kept Germany stable and prosperous throughout her historically long administration, such problems still stand, which must now be resolved by the new administration.