Scholz's reign as German chancellor: Challenges left and right

World 09:54 08.12.2023

On this day, December 8, two years ago (2021), German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took over from then-Chancellor Angela Merkel, who led the country's political sphere for 16 years straight.

Scholz, who acted as vice chancellor in Merkel's fourth cabinet and as the country's finance minister from 2018 to 2021, was perceived as a "worthy" successor, as his political style at the time was seen as not too different from that of Merkel, even though the two belonged to rival parties. Not long after he assumed the chancellor position, he was faced with many challenges: Russian President Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine, high inflation, the energy crisis, etc.

In February 2022, the chancellor called for an "epochal change" to Berlin's foreign policy, as he announced €100 billion would be invested in the country's military, which surprised some given Germany's controversial war history. In addition, since then, many aid packages worth billions of euros have been forwarded to Ukraine.

With the war escalating, Germany also decided to come off of Russian energy sources, which caused a commotion inside of the country, as many were concerned over gas reserves since Moscow was the top supplier. On top of that, the decision also temporarily raised worries over Berlin's commitment to green transition, although, in the long run, it was believed that it would help accelerate it. To combat the soaring energy prices and high inflation, in October 2022, the parliament approved a €200 billion rescue package that would assist both households and companies.

More recently, Scholz's three-party coalition government has been facing a budget crisis, as it still hasn't reached an agreement on a 2024 spending plan, which has to be approved by the parliament by the end of 2023. Earlier, the country's Federal Constitutional Court ruled it "unconstitutional" to use €60 billion left in the emergency COVID-19 fund for Germany's green transition, creating further budgetary issues.

With the potential collapse of the European Union's largest economy looming, in late November, a weekly poll done by the INSA Institute for the Bild revealed that as many as 73% of the respondents showed dissatisfaction with the federal government. INSA's head Hermann Binkert commented that since the coalition took over in 2021, its approval rate fell 18 percentage points to 34%.

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