Olaf Scholz withdraws mention of God from the oath of office as chancellor of Germany

posted on 12/09/2021 06:00

  (credit: John MacDougall/AFP)

(credit: John MacDougall/AFP)

With his right arm bent and the palm of his hand exposed, Olaf Scholz, 63, repeated the words uttered by the president of the Bundestag (Parliament), Baerbel Bas. “I promise that I will devote my energies to the well-being of the German people, increase their benefits, avoid harm to them, defend the Basic Law and the laws of the Federation, fulfill my duties conscientiously, and do justice to all,” declared the social -Democrat, when the ninth chancellor in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany was sworn in, amidst the intermittent noise of the cameras. Interestingly, Scholz omitted the last sentence of the oath, which has been repeated since May 23, 1949: “May God help me.” The nation of 79.9 million people and the largest economy in Europe said goodbye to Angela Merkel and began a new era, now with Scholz as chancellor and at the head of a government formed by a coalition previously considered unlikely, his Party. Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP).

After receiving the approval of 395 of the 736 Bundestag deputies and taking the oath, Scholz promised “a new beginning” for Germany and honored Merkel “for all that she has done”. “It will be a new beginning for our country. In any case, I will do everything to work in this direction,” promised the now head of government. From the Bundestag rostrum, Merkel received effusive applause for her 16 years at the helm of the nation. Later, at a meeting at the chancellery headquarters, she urged Scholz to “work for the good of the country.”

A committed feminist, the new German chancellor took over the first cabinet in history to be marked by gender equality: eight men and eight women. At least three crucial ministries will be led by them — Foreign Affairs (Annalena Baerbock of the Greens), Defense (Christine Lambrecht) and Interior (Nancy Faeser), both from the SPD. The Health portfolio, neuralgic due to the covid-19 pandemic, will be the responsibility of the epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach, former mayor of Hamburg and advocate of restrictive measures. The Ministry of Finance is now occupied by liberal Christian Lidner, who is enthusiastic about budgetary austerity. Also for the first time in 72 years, three parties will control the ministries.

Under the new composition of the Bundestag, with a total of 736 seats, the SPD will have 206 seats, while Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), now opposition, will have 197 deputies. The Greens and the FDP, other members of the governing coalition, will be represented, respectively, by 118 and 92 parliamentarians.


Director of the Department of Comparative Government at the University of Mannheim, German Marc Debus admits that the mission of Scholz and the new coalition government comes up against the fact that establishing tripartite commitments is more difficult. “Especially if the political positions of the parties differ significantly from each other. A challenge for the new government will be that positions on social, economic and financial welfare policies vary a lot,” he told the Correio.

Debus explains that while the SPD and the Greens advocate a strong welfare state and higher taxes for the wealthy, the FDP is a free marketer and is firmly opposed to increased taxation and debt. “These differences will create conflicts in the coming months and years in various areas, in particular because of the pandemic, which resulted in immense costs for the state,” he warned.

Matt Qvortrup, a professor of political science at Coventry University (UK) and author of Angela Merkel: Europe’s most influential leader, of Denmark, does not share Debus’ concerns. “Scholz is a Eurocentrist, even more so than Merkel. But there will be very little change in terms of economic management. In addition, he was Angela’s finance minister. I think there will be a strong focus on social justice.” he said to the report.

Qvortrup does not classify the fact that the Scholz government is formed by such disparate positions as a risk. “All parties will command portfolios where they can shine and show efficiency. Although different, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP share the same basic philosophies.” With regard to the strategy to combat covid-19, the professor and Merkel’s biographer sees a continuity of government.

“By appointing Lauterbach to Health, Scholz signals that he intends to maintain the conservative former chancellor’s health policy. A big difference will be in the rhetoric in relation to China and Russia. But this is an area he will leave to the new Minister of Relations Foreigners, Baerbock, who will be critical of the Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin governments.” There is an expectation that Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) will also play a strong role in the Scholz administration.


US President Joe Biden congratulated Scholz and said he wants to “build on the strong ties between our countries and work closely together to advance global challenges.” Ursula von der Leyen, leader of the European Commission (Executive body of the European Union), expressed her willingness to work with Berlin for a “strong Europe”.

Russia, through Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, stressed the importance of a “constructive relationship” amid heightened tensions due to suspicions about plans for a military offensive in Ukraine. In Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled his willingness to “consolidate and deepen mutual political trust, increase business and cooperation in different fields with Germany.”

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