Martin Schulz resigns as German SPD chief

Violet Powell
February 17, 2018

Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party shuffled its top leadership Tuesday, seeking to end internal squabbles and re-focus its members on passing an agreement to form a new government with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

He also said Andrea Nahles, the party's parliamentary leader, would take over as the SPD's chairwoman.

The party has been forced to act swiftly to fill the vacancy left by Schulz as it prepares for a make-or-break vote by the more than 460,000 members on whether to accept or reject the coalition deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc. But he lamented the decision to give up the finance ministry to the SPD.

With many SPD rank and file harboring misgivings about sharing power with Merkel again, the result of the vote, due on March 4, is wide open.

Schulz on Friday then gave up plans to become German foreign minister, hoping to shore up support among SPD members for the new coalition - but the manner in which he anointed Nahles as his successor rankled with many in the party.

"I experienced highs and lows in this office the likes of which are rare in politics", Schulz told reporters in a brief statement after tendering his resignation to the party's executive committee.

Martin Schulz
GETTYMartin Schulz stood down after losing the confidence of his party

The coalition deal envisages stronger Franco-German cooperation, allocating budget funds for economic stabilisation in Europe, increased German contributions to the EU budget, and transforming the ESM bailout fund into a European Monetary Fund. If members vote "no" to the coalition deal, a new election looks the most likely option.

His resignation capped a week that started with him tipped to become foreign minister of a new administration but ended with a likely return to the backbenches. His supporters were also angered that the party would be working with an anti-immigration rival who was set to take control of the country's interior ministry.

The SPD presidium has nominated the SPD parliamentary group leader and former Labor Minister Andrea Nahles as the new party leader, a decision pending approval, reports Xinhua.

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. The party's youth wing is already campaigning for a no-vote as it fears that another grand coalition with Mrs Merkel's conservatives will further erode the party's identity.

SPD leaders, facing a slump in opinion polls, have their work cut out to convince rank-and-file to endorse the coalition deal with Merkel, a re-run of the power-sharing arrangement they began in 2013.

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