SPD party members will decide Germany's fate

Merkel has left herself with precious little room for manouvre

The leader of Germany's Social Democrats has given up his ambition to be foreign minister, days after agreeing to form a coalition with Angela Merkel.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats have reached a power-sharing agreement with their center-left rivals, the Social Democratic Party, or SPD.

Most of the final stretch of talks involved high-stakes bargaining between Merkel and Schulz over Cabinet posts, with Social Democratic demands, including the finance and foreign ministries, according to a CDU official who asked not to be identified.

His announcement also upset Germany's current foreign minister - veteran SPD member Sigmar Gabriel - who complained of a "lack of respect" and said he was popular among ordinary Germans.

Julian Reichelt, editor-in-chief of the influential Bild daily, called it "the first SPD government led by a CDU chancellor".

A Forsa poll had shown nearly three-quarters of Germans thought it would be wrong for Schulz to become foreign minister.

But before any of these changes can go into effect, the Social Democrat voters have to sign off on the coalition deal via a postal vote.

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"I hereby renounce joining the federal government and at the same time implore that this should be an end to debates about personalities" within the SPD, Schulz said in a statement. The far-right party campaigned on an anti-immigration, anti-Muslim message during the election - and clinched its role as the third-largest party in parliament by winning 94 seats.

"Now these SPD politicos, most of whom are relatively unknown outside Berlin, will be the ones to shape the politics of Europe and Germany, the EU's mightiest member, in the years to come".

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

Schulz was Merkel's defeated challenger in September. Hinging on the vote, by extension: the Nahles promotion, the credibility of her party - and Merkel's fourth term.

After a failed attempt to forge an untried alliance with two smaller parties, Merkel opted to woo back the reluctant SPD-her junior partner for two of her three terms since 2005.

Fourth, initially in return for the role of Foreign Minister, SPD leader Martin Schulz (re-elected just last year) chose to stand aside in favour of the party's federal parliament floor leader, Andrea Nahles (whose impassioned speech was considered a decisive moment at the Bonn conference, in stark contrast to Schulz's underwhelming performance).

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