With the same conservatism that marked Angela Merkel’s 16-year term, the outgoing German chancellor relinquished power on Wednesday, looking straight ahead as the Audi car she ousted from chancellor.
“I know you are very motivated to start work,” she told her Social Democrats successor, Olaf Scholz, a few minutes ago.
“Take this office and work in the best interest of our country – that’s my wish,” she said.
Merkel coincided with the key moments of a highly symbolic day when Scholz and her coalition of the SPD, the Greens and the liberal FDP officially took power.
In her signature blazer-trouser set, this time dark blue, she sat on the public stand next to former President Joachim Gauck as Scholz was formally elected by parliament.
The lower house of the Bundestag began the day with a two-minute standing ovation for him, something he acknowledged by standing up and shaking hands.
When she got into her car at the end of the ceremony at the Chancellor, she was applauded by her staff, who had gifted her gear including walking sticks for future travels.
A handful of people gathered outside the gate hoping to catch a glimpse of the veteran leader, once said to be the world’s most powerful woman.
“She is the angel of the century,” said Afghanistan’s Souleiman, describing himself as a “big fan”.
Enrique Velazco, 30, said, “I came to see Merkel for the last time. She stood for stability for the world, including Europe and Germany. I like her because she’s practical, I’m a little sad today.”
But Merkel herself didn’t shed tears, at least not publicly.
And something else betrayed his feelings, something that the mask he was obliged to wear under coronavirus rules may have helped him hide.
– ‘Take a nap’ –
On 22 November 2005, Merkel herself was sworn in, then took over from Gerhard Schroeder of the centre-left SPD and put her conservative CDU-CSU bloc in charge.
This time, the transfer of power went the other way, although both sides often insisted on a “continuity” that one could be forgiven for thinking they were from the same political family.
The first chancellor to not seek re-election of her own accord, Merkel walked away from politics after three decades as an MP.
Her popularity remains intact and observers believe the 67-year-old woman could have won a fifth term if she sought to do so.
She has offered few clues on what she can do in her retirement, only to say in a visit to Washington this year that “Maybe I’ll try some reading, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up”.
– ‘Best work’ –
In a goodbye session with her parliamentary group on Tuesday, Merkel said she would be based in the future from the former office of Margot Honecker – the wife of East Germany’s longtime leader and education minister of the communist state, just steps from the Brandenburg Gate. and the Reichstag.
Several large wooden chess pieces – including those of the queen – which were given to him by the Forest Owners’ Association have already been transferred to the new office of Germany’s latest ‘former chancellor’.
Those attending the session told AFP that Merkel had told the parliamentary group that she was ready to take questions from the new government, but would not give any advice publicly.
While not betraying her feelings on Wednesday, she indicated what she’s been up against in her four terms, and her verdict on her tenure.
“I know from my own experience that this is a dynamic moment to be elected to this office,” she told Scholz.
“You might have guessed that this is an exciting, fulfilling job, but also a demanding one.
“But if you take it with pleasure, it is probably one of the best actions, to be responsible for this country.”
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)