Olaf Scholz to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor

Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, will serve as Germany's new chancellor, replacing Angela Merkel and marking the first time in 16 years that the country will have center-left leadership.

In the time since the Sept. 26 election, Scholz has worked alongside the progressive Greens and pro-business Free Democrats in secrecy on a 177-page governing agreement. The three party leaders announced the deal on Wednesday, according to The New York Times.

"We are united in a belief in progress and that politics can do good," Scholz said, according to the Times. "We are united in the will to make the country better, to move it forward and to keep it together."

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Scholz's leadership marks the end of an era when Germany was under Merkel's authority. With Merkel as chancellor, Germany became the leading power in Europe for the first time in modern history, the Times reported. 

Scholz won the close election in September. His party had governed alongside Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats for three of her terms. For the past four years, Scholz served as Merkel's finance minister.

Scholz is set to be sworn in as chancellor next month and will immediately face challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic and to border issues involving Belarus and Ukraine. 

Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn said earlier this week that unvaccinated people would likely catch COVID-19 by the end of this winter season. The country had seen an increase of about 50 percent in terms of new infections in the past week.