Martin Schulz resigns as leader of Germany's Social Democrats

14 February, 2018, 19:23 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Merkel and #SPD under renewed fire over German coalition deal

Tuesday's announcement caps off a turbulent week for the former SPD leader, after his party agreed a coalition deal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian allies the Christian Social Union (CSU) last Wednesday.

On Sunday Merkel defended "painful" concessions she made to the SPD to win herself a fourth term as chancellor, and she said criticism among her conservatives was not a sign her authority was waning.

Deputy party leader of the SPD, Ralf Stegner, has said: "We need a new start".

Results of the SPD ballot are due on March 4.

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The SPD's 464,000 members vote in a postal ballot beginning on February 20 on whether the party should go ahead with the agreement its leaders clinched last week to renew their power sharing alliance with Merkel's conservative bloc.

Many party members were angered that Schulz would consider becoming foreign minister after he previously stated he would not serve in a government under Angela Merkel.

In his resignation, Schulz gave his endorsement to parliamentary group leader Andrea Nahles for a leadership election that will take place on April 22nd.

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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For the German press, such open resistance to Merkel is a sign that the long-serving leader could be on the way out. Any agreement will be submitted to a ballot of the Social Democrats' members, a process that will take a few weeks.

"There is no constitutional basis for such a move in our statues", Baumann-Hasske noted, adding that it would hence be impossible for Nahles to make "significant decisions" including with regards to party finances.

As recently as Monday, SPD secretary general Lars Klingbeil reiterated a long-standing demand for a change in party statutes which would require a binding membership vote on the election of any leader rather than their selection by the party's elite leadership circle.

Schulz is expected to take a seat on the SPD's backbenches.

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.

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In a cartoon published on Tuesday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily showed Nahles with a whip riding an SPD snail. The SPD was at a record low of 16.5 percent, barely ahead of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). 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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