New Delhi: After nearly 16 years, the conservative-led rule finally ended as Angela Merkel narrowly lost the elections to the Social Democrats on Sunday and claimed a “clear mandate” to lead a government for the first time since 2005.
The former mayor of Hamburg, 63-year-old Olaf Scholz, would become the fourth post-war SPD chancellor after Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schroeder.
“It is an encouraging message and a clear mandate to make sure that we get a good, pragmatic government for Germany,” he said after earlier addressing his supporters.
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) won 25.7% of the vote, ahead of 24.1% for Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative bloc, according to provisional results. The Greens came in at 14.8% and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) were on 11.5%.
In order to secure a majority in parliament, the SPD is likely to seek a three-way alliance with the Greens and the FDP, although the two parties could also team up with the conservatives. Merkel will stay in charge in a caretaker role during the coalition negotiations that will set the future course of Europe’s largest economy.
Angela Merkel has stood large on the European stage almost since taking office in 2005 – when George W. Bush was U.S. president, Jacques Chirac in the Elysee Palace in Paris and Tony Blair British prime minister.
Merkel’s supporters said she provided steady, pragmatic leadership through countless global crises as a moderate and unifying figure, reported AFP.
A Pew Research Center poll this week showed large majorities in most democracies around the globe having “confidence in Merkel to do the right thing in world affairs”.
However, the last days of her tenure have also been marred by the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in which she shares the blame as Germany completed its evacuation.
She shared the German majority’s wishes among them phasing out nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster and attracted a broad new coalition of women and urban voters to the once arch-conservative CDU.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, one of her boldest moves was to keep borders open for over one million asylum seekers which seemed to keep her legacy going.
She was once known as the “climate chancellor” for pushing for renewables but young activists argue that she has failed to face up to the climate emergency as Germany was not even meeting its own emissions reduction commitments.