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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that she will step down after 16 years in power once a new government is formed following Germany‘s close election.
Merkel has been the longest-serving German Chancellor since the nation’s founder and first Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, who served as Chancellor from 1871-1890.
Merkel’s announcement came prior to the German election on Sunday, Sept. 27, which would decide the government for the country for the next four years. The center-left Social Democrats (SPD) claimed a narrow victory in the election over Merkel’s party, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The SPD received 26% of the vote while the CDU received 24%.
SPD leader Olaf Scholz claims to have a mandate to govern while his conservative rival and Merkel’s appointed successor in the CDU, Armin Laschet, is determined to form a coalition despite his party’s worst-ever performance.
The SPD and CDU have governed together in a coalition for years; however, Scholz said that his party is in talks of forming a coalition with the Greens and the pro-business Liberal Party (FDP).
The Greens and Liberals are the most popular parties among Germans under 30 years old who see climate change as the biggest issue the country faces. The Greens received a record 15% of the vote while the FDP received 11%.
Scholz wishes to form a coalition with the Greens and Liberals as German voters want better climate legislation than they got under Merkel. A coalition with the Greens and FDP would likely lead to better climate legislation that the CDU would likely be opposed to.
Scholz has called for the conservatives to stand down and become the opposition for the coalition he is attempting to form. Laschet has refused to back down, arguing that neither party has a total mandate to govern and that they should form a majority coalition as they have in the past.
This is the first time that post-Cold War Germany has not been dominated by Merkel’s CDU or the SPD. Assuming that the SPD is able to form a coalition with the Greens and FDP, it will also be the first time that Germany has had a three-party coalition.
Merkel’s work as Chancellor is not done, however, as she has to wait until a coalition is formed to leave office. All of the major parties hope to have a coalition formed in January by the time Germany takes over leadership of the G7 nations.
Whoever takes office and forms a coalition will be responsible for Europe’s largest economy and leading its fight against climate change for the next four years. German voters sent a clear message to Merkel and her supporters, that they want change and won’t miss her.