German Parliament Elects New Speaker as Merkel Steps Aside

For the first time since last month’s elections, Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, met Tuesday and elected a new speaker from the winning center-left Social Democrats (SPD) party to lead the 736-member body. 

The 53-year-old Baerbel Bas, from the western German city of Duisburg, has been in the Bundestag since 2009. She served as deputy leader of the SPD parliamentary group in the last parliament and its spokesperson on health, education and research.

Following her election, she noted the diversity of the new parliament and urged her fellow lawmakers to “reach out to many people in this country, especially to those who have not felt addressed by politics for a long time.” 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the meeting, and as she is no longer a lawmaker, watched from the visitors’ gallery. Merkel served as Germany’s chancellor for the past 16 years.

Later Tuesday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was scheduled to formally dismiss Merkel and her Cabinet, although they will be asked to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is in place.

The SPD won the most seats in the parliamentary elections, but failed to win a clear majority, and is working with the environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats to form Germany’s new government.

The parties said last week they hope to have the country’s next chancellor – certain to be SPD leader Olaf Scholz – in place by early December, but acknowledged they still have a lot of work to do.

Some information for this report comes from AP, Reuters, and AFP.

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