Germany coalition: SPD's Schulz gives up cabinet role to save deal

Angela Merkel

GETTYAngela Merkel's popularity has plummeted as she scrambles to secure another term as Chancellor

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz announced on Tuesday he would quit as chairman of the storied labour movement, but because of internal divisions his designated successor, Andrea Nahles, must wait to take the reins.

The planned handover of the SPD leadership from Martin Schulz to Andrea Nahles is also viewed with skepticism, according to a survey by Emnid for Sunday's edition of the Bild newspaper.

The SPD members in Berlin and Saxony-Anhalt who oppose handing the reins over to Nahles include Berlin's Governing Mayor Michael Müller, who said before a meeting of the SPD's top committees that his national association wants "the party's chairs elected through an orderly process of delegates at a federal party convention, rather than appointed". Instead of leaving it to delegates at the convention, some in the party base are agitating for another full membership vote on the SPD's next leader, a prospect that could lead to further delays and open the door to more challengers for the position.

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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.

A deal to govern with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives still has to be put to a vote of SPD members.

Most analysts believe that the SPD's 463,000 members will endorse the coalition deal, given that pensioners, working class families and other core SPD constituencies stand to benefit from it.

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Mr Schulz, formerly European Parliament President, has said he will not serve as foreign minister. He told German news agency, "Die Welt", that "there no statutory basis exists in the SPD's rules that allows for the appointment of a new party leader". A vote against could sweep away the current generation of leaders and trigger new elections, unsettling partners in Europe and beyond.

"If I can contribute to that by resigning, it will have been worth it", he said outside the SPD headquarters. He also refused to become the next foreign minister.

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

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The turmoil in the SPD can only distract from criticism of Merkel from within her own party after she handed the foreign and finance ministries to the SPD to secure the coalition deal. German media cited a letter by Lange to the SPD leadership in which she called on the party to open itself up to a truly democratic debate over its future orientation.

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