Germany’s new parliament sits for first time

Published : 26 Oct 2021 09:05 PM | Updated : 27 Oct 2021 04:57 PM

Germany’s newly elected parliament is set to hold its first meeting on Tuesday. The 736-member lower house, or Bundestag, is expected to elect as its new speaker Baerbel Bas of the center-left Social Democrats, which emerged from last month’s election as the strongest party.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend the meeting although she is no longer a lawmaker. She will be sitting on the visitor stands of parliament. Later in the afternoon, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will formally dismiss Merkel and her Cabinet, though they will be asked to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is in place.

The three parties that hope to form Germany’s new government said last week they aim to have the country’s next chancellor in place in early December, but acknowledged that they face a complex task. The Social Democrats, environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats opened formal coalition talks following a preliminary deal earlier this month, which set out their priorities but left many open questions.

German coalition talks are an elaborate affair, producing an agreement that sets out details of the government’s program for its four-year term. They have tended to get longer over the years as the country’s political landscape has fragmented, meaning that elections rarely produce parliamentary majorities for traditional allies.

If the negotiations succeed, the new government will send Merkel’s center-right Union bloc into opposition after 16 years at the helm. Her successor will be Olaf Scholz, who propelled the Social Democrats to a narrow election victory on Sept. 26. He is the vice chancellor and finance minister in the current government.

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