SPD leadership transition drags out, threatens Germany's new coalition government

Merkel and #SPD under renewed fire over German coalition deal

The leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), Martin Schulz, resigned from his post on Tuesday.

"With my resignation from office and decision not to participate in the government, I want to bring the personnel debate in the SPD to an end so that the members can really concentrate on what is in the coalition agreement", Schulz told reporters.

"It's a hard job at times, but I retire without bitterness and resentment", Schulz was quoted by German media Focus Online as saying. Shortly after, the party's leadership announced that it supported the chairman of the SPD parliamentary group Andrea Nahles for the post.

Results of the SPD ballot are due on March 4.

Schulz has also been criticized by fellow SPD politician and current Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel for pursuing the post.

Schulz, a former European Parliament president, took over as SPD leader from Gabriel previous year, raising hopes within the party he could stand a better chance against Merkel in the September election. Many SPD rank and file members harbour serious misgivings about entering into a new government with Merkel again.

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Schulz has been troubled with criticism from within the SPD, especially the youth branch of the party which has been fervently against a coalition deal with Merkel.

Ms Nahles was named by Mr Schulz as his chosen successor last week.

Nahles said she would start campaigning at the weekend for members to vote "yes" to a coalition with Merkel, who has led the European Union's most populous country and economic powerhouse since 2005.

Schulz's own plans were becoming a major distraction for the SPD.

An INSA poll published on Tuesday showed the SPD at a record low of 16.5 percent, only 1.5 percentage points ahead of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). The deal has potentially paved the way for Germany to finally form a government after months of political instability following the indecisive parliamentary elections in September. Juso leader Kevin Kuehnert has expressed concerns that the SPD would be electorally marginalized during another term as junior partner to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), calling for the renewal of German social democracy in opposition.

The SPD originally wanted to reinvent itself in opposition but reconsidered when Merkel's attempt to form an alliance with two smaller parties failed late previous year.

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