BERLIN — Olaf Scholz took over as Germany’s new chancellor on Wednesday at the head of a three-party coalition government, ending the 16-year era of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel. Scholz will lead a 17-member Cabinet, with one more minister than Merkel’s, made up of nine men and eight women. Here’s a look at the key players.
The vice chancellor and finance minister in Merkel’s government, Scholz propelled his center-left Social Democrats to an election win that appeared unlikely only months ago. Scholz, 63, is a former mayor of Hamburg and was Germany’s labor minister during the global financial crisis. His experience, attention to detail and technocratic image became an asset during the campaign. Scholz has a taciturn, no-nonsense approach; he is unflappable and unshakably self-confident. He has positioned himself both as Merkel’s natural successor and an agent of change after her long tenure. He lost a bid to head his party in 2019, but was its undisputed choice to run for chancellor.
The co-leader of the environmentalist Greens will head the newly created Economy and Climate Ministry, and become vice chancellor. Habeck, 52, served as the agriculture and environment minister of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein from 2012 to 2018. He became party leader alongside Annalena Baerbock in 2018. Habeck lost out to Baerbock to become the party’s candidate for chancellor going into the election, but emerged after their third-place finish at the head of the Greens’ government team.
The leader of the pro-business Free Democrats will hold the government’s purse strings as finance minister. Lindner dominates his party, which he led back into parliament in 2017 after a four-year absence. He is bringing the Free Democrats into government after pulling the plug four years ago on talks to join Merkel’s last administration. Lindner, 42, says “we stand for solid finances in Germany and Europe.” He has insisted that the new coalition government not raise taxes or loosen curbs on running up debt.
The Greens’ other co-leader becomes Germany’s first female foreign minister after running as the party’s first candidate for the chancellery. Her campaign never recovered from early errors but still ended with the party’s best-ever election showing. Baerbock, 40, studied political science and international law in Hamburg and London. She has called for “dialogue and toughness” toward China and taken a similar approach toward Russia. Baerbock has been a vocal opponent in the past of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that has been built to bring more Russian gas to Germany, but isn’t yet operating.
The lawyer who heads the Social Democrats’ branch in the central Hesse region becomes Germany’s first female interior minister — the country’s top security official — overseeing federal police and the domestic intelligence agency. Faeser, 51, spent 12 years as her party’s home affairs spokeswoman in Hesse. She says that “a particular concern” will be fighting the threat from right-wing extremism.
The media-savvy epidemiologist, a Social Democratic lawmaker since 2005, becomes health minister. Lauterbach, 58, has been one of Germany’s most prominent voices urging caution and strict measures against COVID-19 and a regular TV pundit. Lauterbach studied in Germany and the U.S., including at the Harvard School of Public Health, and is director of the Institute of Health Economics and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Cologne Medical School. He says “the pandemic will last longer than many think, but we will make it — vaccination will play the central role, but not just that.”
OTHERS ON THE TEAM
Wolfgang Schmidt, a longtime Scholz confidant and his deputy finance minister, will be the chancellor’s chief of staff.
The Social Democrats also have chosen outgoing Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht as defense minister. She will be replaced by Free Democrat lawmaker and lawyer Marco Buschmann.
Former Green leader Cem Ozdemir becomes agriculture minister and the first Cabinet member with Turkish roots.
Steffi Lemke becomes environment minister and one of just two Cabinet members from the formerly communist east.