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Germany's Martin Schulz resigns as Social Democrat leader

16 February 2018

Schulz's deputy Olaf Scholz - the Hamburg mayor who is slated to become finance minister in the new government - said he would become caretaker SPD chairman, and the party confirmed that it had recommended parliamentary floor leader Andrea Nahles as Schulz's longer-term successor. The plan to quell internal strife with a fast leadership reshuffle now seems to have had the opposite effect, however, with critics questioning the legal basis for Nahles' elevation to interim leader prior to her formal nomination by the party leadership committee.

Schulz said an extraordinary party congress would be held in the western city of Wiesbaden on April 22 to pick a new leader.

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.

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

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.

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Olaf Scholz, appointed SPD interim leader on Tuesday, said European Union reform plans included in the coalition agreement were a strong reason to back the deal.

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.

Meanwhile, according to a survey, around two-thirds of Germans do not consider the SPD fit for national government, less than two weeks before the party is set to vote on a new coalition deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, as reported by the dpa.

"The window of opportunity is now, not in five or 10 years - maybe then it won't be there any more", he told party members in Vilshofen, Bavaria.

Ralf Stegner, the regional SPD leader in Schleswig-Holstein, said: "Each of us would be well advised to put the interest of the party and the country before their own ambitions".

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In a cartoon on Tuesday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily showed Nahles with a whip riding an SPD snail.

Andrea Nahles, a plain-speaking 47-year-old former labor minister with a left-wing slant and strong oratory skills, will become Schulz's successor.

Germany has been without a formal government since the September 24 election and investors are anxious about a delay in policymaking, both at home and in the EU. The far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered the Bundestag for the first time.

The SPD has agreed on a blueprint for coalition government with Ms Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and her Bavarian CSU allies. Merkel's conservative bloc was also down 1 point at 29.5 percent. The party's youth wing is pushing the Social Democrats to go into opposition, and leadership questions mired its top officials.

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Germany's Martin Schulz resigns as Social Democrat leader