Embattled centre-left leader Martin Schulz abandons bid for German foreign ministry

Javier Howell
February 10, 2018

A Forsa poll showed nearly three-quarters of Germans thought it would be wrong for Schulz to become foreign minister, while only around a quarter thought that would be the right move.

"I hereby renounce joining the federal government and at the same time implore that this should be an end to debates about personalities" within the SPD, Schulz said in a statement.

The SPD agreed on Wednesday to form a new government with the conservatives, more than four months after Germany's election, but the SPD's 464,000 members could still scupper the deal in a ballot whose results will be announced on March 4. But such a coalition deal was struck earlier this week.

September's general election was a disaster for the party, however.

The deadlock prompted speculation the 63-year-old German leader could be forced to step down, but after long negotiations over key issues such as foreign policies, immigration and the environment, Ms Merkel will remain Chancellor for her fourth term.

Schulz faced anger within the SPD for his willingness to take the foreign ministry job, despite vowing never to serve in a Merkel-led cabinet - it would also have been a move that would have been both unpopular in the party and left it with a significant credibility problem.

Grassroots organizations in the SPD, including the party's youth wing, are already campaigning for a no-vote on the coalition deal.

Many young and leftist members are against the renewed so-called Grand Coalition between the SPD and the Union. A party meeting in January narrowly approved talks with Merkel's Christian Democratic-led bloc, laying bare the divisions.

Talking to reporters after marathon overnight talks that produced the final agreement Wednesday, Merkel said that the agreement will help keep Germany's economy strong and guide the country into the future.

At the top of the party, incumbent foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel - among Germany's most popular politicians - lamented in a newspaper interview "how little respect there is in the SPD in our dealings with one another, and how little someone's word counts for".

On Friday morning, it emerged that Schulz was facing a rebellion within his party, with the tabloid Bild reporting that delegates from the SPD's powerful branch in North-Rhine Westphalia had set him an ultimatum to renounce his aspirations for the foreign ministry.

The decision came after increasing pressure within the party over forging an alliance with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

After the SPD's losses in the September 24 national election, Schulz announced that the SPD would go into coalition and that he wouldn't hold talks with Merkel.

Other reports by Insurance News

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