Published: Wed, February 14, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

German Social Democrats shake up leadership, focus on govt

German Social Democrats shake up leadership, focus on govt

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) faced further criticism on Monday (12 February) from within their own parties over a new coalition deal that must still be approved by disgruntled SPD rank-and-file members, write Paul Carrel and Thorsten Severin.

"With my resignation from office and decision not to participate in the government, I want to bring the personnel debate in the SPD to an end so that the members can really concentrate on what is in the coalition agreement", Schulz told reporters.

"The SPD can build on it if the membership of the party gives us the mandate to enter government", he said. Shortly after, the party's leadership announced that it supported the chairman of the SPD parliamentary group Andrea Nahles for the post.

Regional SPD branches in Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and Saxony-Anhalt all proposed that the party should instead be led by its parliamentary vice-presidents in the interim until Nahles is confirmed as leader at a party conference.

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Under a grand coalition agreement, Olaf Scholz, the popular mayor of Hamburg, is set to take on the powerful role of finance minister.

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Ms Nahles was named by Mr Schulz as his chosen successor last week.

The SPD will now put a coalition deal to its 460,000 members for a vote later this month, with results due on March 4. Mr Schulz on Friday abandoned his plan to become Germany's next foreign minister after the SPD's youth wing accused him of securing a favourable position for himself.

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That leaves open who from within the SPD may take up that post. Juso leader Kevin Kuehnert has expressed concerns that the SPD would be electorally marginalized during another term as junior partner to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), calling for the renewal of German social democracy in opposition.

Under Schulz, a former European Parliament president who became SPD leader just over a year ago, the party garnered 20.5 percent in September's election, its worst result in the post-war era.

The SPD has slid into disarray since its leaders struck the coalition deal last week, blighted by bitter divisions over whether to join the coalition, a loss of confidence in outgoing leader Martin Schulz and discontent over the succession process.

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However, the agreement is subject to the approval of the total SPD party members, over 460,000 in number, in the coming weeks. Under the coalition agreement, the SPD will retain control of the foreign, justice and labour ministries among others.

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