Schulz abandons German foreign minister ambitions

Horst Seehofer of the Christian Social Union CSU talks to media prior to the party's board meeting in Munich southern Germany. The smallest of the parties in Germany’s prospective new government has signed off on this

Germany's embattled Social Democratic leader Martin Schulz abruptly dropped his bid to become Chancellor Angela Merkel's next foreign minister, saying an outcry over his claim to the post endangers a critical membership vote to end the country's political impasse.

In a statement Friday, Schulz said members' approval of Germany's new coalition government was endangered by the discussion about his future so "I will not enter the government and fervently hope that this ends the personnel debates inside the Social Democratic Party".

The SPD and Dr Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU bloc announced a hard-fought coalition deal on Wednesday (Feb 7) that included big concessions to the centre-left, among them six ministries including finance and foreign affairs. That marks a major shift since Merkel has not previously faced a credible challenge to her rule in the more than 12 years she has spent at the helm of Europe's pre-eminent powerbroker.

The SPD agreed on Wednesday to form a new "grand coalition" with the conservatives, over four months after an election, but the 464,000-strong party rank and file could still scupper the deal in a ballot.

Senior SPD members also pressured their leader into dropping his demand to be the foreign minister as part of the grand coalition - or GroKro.

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Her next step up the party ladder came in September previous year when she was appointed SPD parliamentary leader, just weeks after the party's election result sunk to a mere 20.5% - its lowest level since modern Germany was founded. For good measure, he has also been forced to stick to his promise to give up the party leadership.

Chancellor Angela Merkel receives Valentine's Day flowers from the Central Gardening Association at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 9, 2018. A "no" vote would mean Germany would nearly certainly face. He told broadcaster SWR that he expected a minority government to take charge in Germany, at least for a few months, if SPD members heeded his call.

A former head of the party's youth wing, Nahles stepped up her consolidation of power in the SPDÂ in 2009 with her election as its general secretary - a move that some analysts saw at the time as tilting the party to the left.

The SPD's 460,000 members will have the final say on the whole agreement in a postal vote, the result of which will be announced on 2 March.

Some commentators have suggested a mid-term review could offer Merkel the opportunity to step gracefully aside.

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