Germany is preparing to swear in its fourth chancellor in five years, almost 16 years after her father led the country to reunification.
Seven party leaders will be sworn in on Saturday after Germany’s parliamentary election in September.
Olaf Scholz, the mayor of Hamburg and a former economy minister in the last cabinet of Gerhard Schröder, is set to be the first social Democrat in the post in 16 years.
Merkel had served as chancellor since 2005 when she became the nation’s first female leader, and she has won praise for her solid economic stewardship in the past decade. But the Christian Democrats she leads have lost support in recent years.
She is expected to be replaced by Scholz, who spent almost two decades working for the federal state government in Hamburg before moving to the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) in 2014. Now the party leader and the city’s governor, he has impressed Germans with his focus on de-politicizing government, particularly as Hamburg attempts to combat massive algae blooms that are marring its famed green image.
Some experts say Scholz, 64, could serve as a tough defender of Germany’s immigration policy, in response to concerns that immigration has led to growing crime and terror threats in the country. There have been attacks on Muslims, the attempted attacks of a Syrian refugee and the murder of a German in Texas — two of many terrorist attacks in Germany this year.
Hamburg authorities reported earlier this month that some 6,000 new migrants had entered the city so far this year, about twice the amount it experienced during the same period in 2016. But Scholz has said Hamburg has “no excessive expectations” of welcoming more migrants.
“There will always be some who wait for the doors to open wider than they should,” he said in September. “However, the Hamburg government and the government of the state of Hamburg will do everything that we can to accept and integrate them fully into society. We expect to receive about the same numbers this year as last year.”
Scholz has attempted to resolve some regional conflict by reducing Germany’s military and expanding its education sector. Hamburg is playing a significant role in bringing the European Union together this week as leaders prepare to meet in the first European Union-Turkey summit in Turkey.
“I am convinced that a society that is divided can’t work,” Scholz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in August. “But a society that’s cohesive can make an important contribution to solving the difficulties.”
In the first assessment of the Social Democrats’ election win, Stefan Körber, the head of the German opposition, said the party had won at least 20 percent of the popular vote.
“The people’s mandate was to make the federal government a one-party government,” he said.