German Social Democrats shake up leadership, focus on govt

Ivan Schwartz
February 15, 2018

Nahles, a combative, plain-talking former labor minister under Merkel, carries weight in the party base and can hope to shore up support among blue-collar members for another stint in government.

Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats managed to reach a coalition agreement after the chancellor's attempt to forge an unorthodox "Jamaica" coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats and the Green party collapsed last December.

The SPD is split over the coalition deal and the division of ministerial posts.

With many SPD members harbouring misgivings about sharing power with Ms Merkel again, the result of the vote, due on March 4, is wide open.

Schulz's other announcement Friday - that Andrea Nahles, the party's parliamentary leader, would take over as the Social Democrats' chairwoman - also gave rise to a chorus of concerns.

Angela Merkel says that the "painful concessions" she made to the Social Democrats (SPD) to secure another term in office were fully justified and do not mean that her authority is on the wane, The Guardian wrote.

Contrary to Schulz, an outsider for many SPD members, Nahles is deeply entrenched in the party.

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"If I can contribute to that by resigning, it will have been worth it", he said outside the SPD headquarters.

"The SPD is trying to calm the public with the change in leadership", said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist at ING-Diba in Frankfurt.

In a cartoon on Tuesday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily showed Ms Nahles with a whip riding an SPD snail. Media have speculated that one option might be Katarina Barley, a former SPD general secretary and family minister, or SPD veteran Thomas Oppermann.

Germany, which is Europe's biggest economy, has been without a government since September's elections when Mrs Merkel failed to clinch a majority. His plans to take the ministry had become a major distraction because after September's election he had explicitly ruled out entering Merkel's next Cabinet.

The latest opinion poll of Insa has given the SPD just 16.5 percent of the vote.

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

Other reports by GizPress

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