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Scholz leads new German gov’t



German Finance Minister Olaf Sholz is due to take over from Chancellor Angela Merkel under the new coalition deal (AFP/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN, Germany (AFP) — A center-left-led alliance of parties on Wednesday announced a deal to form Germany’s new government, with surging coronavirus infections posing an immediate crisis for the post-Angela Merkel cabinet to tackle.

Two months after the Social Democrats (SPD) beat Merkel’s conservative CDU-CSU bloc in a general election, they concluded a roadmap on plans for Germany’s next four years with the Greens and liberal Free Democrats (FDP) that will install Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, 63, as chancellor.

Scholz said his incoming government will set up a crisis team to fight the pandemic, and pledged to spend a billion euros ($1.12 billion) on bonuses for health workers in hospitals and care homes who have been on the frontlines of the crisis.

He voiced backing for compulsory vaccinations for health staff and said his government would “do everything necessary to bring our country safely through this time.”

Climate protection also features prominently in the coalition accord, with the Greens getting their way on bringing Germany’s exit from coal forward to 2030 from 2038. A huge ramp-up of renewable energy is planned for sustainable power to make up 80 percent of electricity mix by 2030.

The FDP took home the pledge to reinstate the country’s constitutionally enshrined debt limit for 2023. And the SPD secured backing for their campaign pledge to raise minimum wage to 12 euros from the current 9.60 euros.

Christian Lindner, leader of the business-friendly FDP, is poised to become finance minister of Europe’s biggest economy.