Martin Schulz exits coalition in bid to stave off revolt

Martin Schulz exits coalition in bid to stave off revolt

The SPD, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union reached the coalition deal on Wednesday, which will possibly end the new government vacuum since the September 24 federal election, the longest period ever since 1949.

Martin Schulz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), had previously decided he would accept the post of foreign minister in the country's new cabinet, counter to still earlier claims that he wouldn't do so, after the coalition talks with Merkel's CDU/CSU alliance succeeded.

Schulz had already announced on February 7 that he would resign as SPD chairman to become German foreign minister, triggering widespread criticism as he had promised ahead of the September election that he would not serve in a new government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Senior CSU members said the party's leadership approved the agreement unanimously on Thursday.

Schulz's surprise announcement on Friday came two days after he struck a deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc CDU/CSU to form a grand coalition government.

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. "For that reason, I declare that I won't enter into the federal government - and at the same time sincerely hope to put an end to the personnel debate within the SPD".

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Schulz's choice to step aside to help secure an SPD vote in favour of a stable government "deserves the highest respect and recognition", said Andrea Nahles, his likely successor as party chair.

"The way in which Schulz left could make it hard to quickly focus on the party's achievements in the coalition talks", Carsten Nickel, a Brussels-based analyst at Teneo Intelligence, said in an e-mail response to questions.

Although Gabriel is one of Germany's most popular politicians, scoring a 57% approval rating in an ARD television poll this month, there is no job waiting in Merkel's fourth government. He also wants to create the post of European Union finance minister. Paul Ziemiak, leader of the bloc's youth wing, called for a broad discussion about the longer-term future of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its leadership.

Peter Hauk, agriculture minister in the wealthy southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, said Merkel should enable a handover of power within the current four-year legislative period.

But the Social Democrats have been hesitant to sign up for a third round as Merkel's junior partners - partly over fears the party was moving too far to the right.

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