Germany: Scholz suffers his first major parliamentary defeat as his compulsory vaccination proposal is rejected | International

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks with Health Minister Karl Lauterbach this Thursday in the Bundestag.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks with Health Minister Karl Lauterbach this Thursday in the Bundestag.JOHN MACDOUGALL (AFP)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz experienced his first major parliamentary defeat this Thursday since taking office last December. The Bundestag has voted against a bill that wanted to force those over 60 to receive the covid-19 vaccine. There has been no consensus even among the ranks of the coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals. After months of negotiations, progressive reductions in expectations and the presentation of a very watered-down final text, the result of the vote is a failure for Scholz and for his Minister of Health, the also Social Democrat Karl Lauterbach.

It is also a setback for the vaccination campaign in Germany, which for months has stalled several percentage points below other Western European countries such as France, Italy and Spain. 23% of the German population remains unimmunized despite all the campaigns by the authorities and the attempts to force the most reluctant to receive the prick by prohibiting them from entering cafes, restaurants, theaters, cinemas and any other closed place for months. leisure or culture.

Scholz pledged last December to push for mandatory vaccination for all adults. He initially said that he wanted it to come into force in March, but he immediately found that he did not have the support of even the members of the tripartite. From the obligation for all those over 18, a draft was passed that required the puncture only to those over 50, but finally, a few days before the vote, and given that there was not a parliamentary majority, it was passed to settle for those over 60.

Of the 683 deputies who voted, 378 did so against the bill and 296 in favor. The parties had given freedom to vote as it was a sensitive issue in a country reluctant to force decisions that affect the health and freedom of its citizens. The debate lasted for four hours.

Until the fourth wave of the pandemic, between last November and December, compulsory vaccination was not even considered in Germany. Scholz himself acknowledged that he had changed his mind in view of the low immunization rates in the country. Former Chancellor Angela Merkel was also in favour.

The deputies of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which defends denial theses and has spoken out against practically all measures to fight the pandemic, rose to applaud when the result of the vote came out. The failed bill is a major setback for Scholz because it calls into question his ability to lead among his own government partners. The chancellor, concerned about the outcome of the vote, had called his foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, back early from the NATO meeting in Brussels in which he was participating. He was aware that he could not lose any vote.

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The Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, the other big loser, assured that, without the law, fighting the pandemic will be much more complicated next fall. In the session of the lower house of the German Parliament, three other motions were voted with different proposals, such as mandatory advice for those who refuse to be vaccinated, which also did not go ahead.

Vaccination has been mandatory in Germany for employees of hospitals and nursing homes since mid-March, although most of the federal states have recognized that it is not being complied with, in some cases because there is a shortage of personnel and, in others, due to the slowness of the process of verifying the vaccination status.

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