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Merkel and #SPD under renewed fire over German coalition deal
14 February 2018, 07:21 | Myrtle Vega
GETTYJulia Klockner stood by Angela Merkel after last year's disastrous election
Martin Schulz resigned on Tuesday, hoping to end turbulence that has rocked the center-left party since it agreed a coalition deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives. Gabriel said he also apologized to Schulz in person on Tuesday, the day when Schulz stepped down as head of the SPD.
Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz has taken over as interim SPD chief, with the party's parliamentary group leader Andrea Nahles lined up as the leadership's candidate to become the new permanent boss.
Results of the SPD ballot are due on March 4.
Under his reign as leader of the SPD, Schulz has seen the party support decrease dramatically with a recent poll, taken by the firm INSA, putting the social democrats only a single percentage point above the populist anti-mass migration Alternative for Germany (AfD). Many SPD rank and file members harbour serious misgivings about entering into a new government with Merkel again.
"Not only has a Bavarian politician passed the pinnacle of his career, but probably a woman from the north too", he added in a dig at Merkel and Horst Seehofer, leader of the arch-conservative Bavarian sister party (CSU) to Merkel's CDU.
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Two sources in the SPD leadership said the party decided not to make Nahles a caretaker leader because it did not want to pre-empt a vote at the party congress and so possibly influence the members' vote on a coalition with Merkel.
The upheaval at the top of the SPD has distracted from party leaders' attempts to convince party members to agree to the coalition deal. 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.
In a cartoon published on Tuesday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily showed Nahles with a whip riding an SPD snail.
Guenther Oettinger, a senior CDU member and the European Union's budget commissioner, rushed to her defence on Monday: "I find her still strong ... and am sure she will meet the expectations of our party and the public in the coming days". 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. Schulz's resignation, however, does not mean he will leave the party, and he can take a ministerial post if the government is actually formed.
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