Germany's Martin Schulz resigns as Social Democrat leader

Chelsea West
February 16, 2018

An attempt to end bitter infighting among the German Social Democrats (SPD) with an immediate transfer of the leadership position from Martin Schulz to the current SPD parliamentary faction leader Andrea Nahles has met with resistance on Tuesday.

The most urgent matter for the SPD is to get a new leader in place after Martin Schulz said last week he would quit to allow the party to regroup.

Deeply divided over the coalition deal and the division of ministerial posts, and facing a slump in opinion polls, SPD leaders are trying to convince 464,000 party members to back the deal in a ballot on which Merkel's fourth term hangs. Schulz said after the deal was announced that he would step down following the members' vote - the results of which are due to be announced on March 4 - to take the job of foreign minister, but later dropped that plan amid controversy.

Olaf Scholz, appointed SPD interim leader on Tuesday, said European Union reform plans included in the coalition agreement were a strong reason to back the deal.

Schulz's decision to accept the post of foreign minister has also irked the incumbent, his party colleague Sigmar Gabriel, who called the move "disrespectful" on Thursday evening.

Many within the SPD harbour misgivings about sharing power with Ms Merkel, believing the party should rebuild in opposition after suffering its worst result in last September's election since Germany became a federal republic in 1949.

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Germany's stumbling efforts to install a new coalition government under the leadership of Angela Merkel remains on track despite a grassroots rebellion that led to the downfall of one of the country's most prominent politicians, analysts said Wednesday. In the meantime, deputy party leader and Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz would take over as interim leader, they said. If party members reject the agreement, the new coalition government can't be formed.

In a cartoon published on Tuesday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily showed Nahles with a whip riding an SPD snail.

That leaves open who from within the SPD may take up that post.

Andrea Nahles, a plain-speaking 47-year-old former labor minister with a left-wing slant and strong oratory skills, will become Schulz's successor.

The departure is likely to soothe anger within the Social Democrats and make it more likely that the party's 460,000 rank-and-file members will vote to approve the coalition deal, analysts said. Ms Merkel's CDU secured five ministries, with the CSU winning a further three.

The SPD originally wanted to reinvent itself in opposition but reconsidered when Merkel's attempt to form an alliance with two smaller parties failed late past year.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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