Germany centre-left party set to confirm first female leader

Merkel and #SPD under renewed fire over German coalition deal

Merkel and #SPD under renewed fire over German coalition deal

The head of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), Martin Schulz, has resigned to ease preparations for a coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

"I depart this office without bitterness or resentment", he said, nearly a year after he was elected as SPD party head with 100 percent of the vote. His resignation went into effect immediately. The party's 464,000 party members will vote in a postal ballot on the deal, with the results expected to be announced on March 2.

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.

Many in the SPD rank and file are also unhappy with the coalition deal, which will renew an awkward ruling alliance with Merkel's bloc that has governed Germany since 2013.

In his second resignation in several days, the now-former head of the SPD Schulz gave his support to parliamentary group leader Andrea Nahles in an upcoming leadership election that will take place on April 22nd.

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"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. "End the lack of discipline in the SPD!" one of the party's deputy leaders, Ralf Stegner, told the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung.

Nahles said she would start campaigning at the weekend for members to vote "yes" to a coalition with Merkel, who has led the European Union's most populous country and economic powerhouse since 2005.

In a cartoon published on Tuesday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily showed Nahles with a whip riding an SPD snail. After fierce criticism from some former allies, Schulz ditched plans to take the post of foreign minister.

That leaves open who from within the SPD may take up that post. Mr Schulz secured six ministries in a new government for the SPD, including finance, foreign and labour, giving the Social Democrats a critical role in shaping Berlin's policy on Europe over the next four years. The deal has potentially paved the way for Germany to finally form a government after months of political instability following the indecisive parliamentary elections in September.

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

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