Germany’s Martin Schulz steps down as SPD leader

Germany’s Martin Schulz steps down as SPD leader

Social Democrat leader resigns amid debate within SPD on forming coalition government with Christian Democrats

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) - Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz announced his resignation on Tuesday, ahead of a key vote of SPD’s 460,000 members on forming a coalition government with Christian Democrats.

Speaking to reporters at the SPD headquarters in Berlin, Schulz said he wanted to put an end to debates about personalities within the party, and open the way for reforms.

“SPD needs a renewal, both in terms of personalities, and in terms of party program. That is the urgent wish of our party members,” he said.

Schulz defended the coalition deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, and expressed hope that the SPD’s party members would back the agreement.

The Social Democrat politician came under growing pressure in recent months, and was accused by several senior party figures of not keeping his promises.

Soon after elections last September, Schulz ruled out entering a Merkel-led coalition government, and stressed that SPD would assume the role of main opposition.

But upon the failure of coalition talks with Merkel’s conservatives, the liberal FDP and Greens, Schulz led Social Democrats in coalition negotiations with the CDU/CSU alliance.

The SPD’s 460,000 members will decide this month on whether or not to form a “grand coalition” with the CDU/CSU.

A postal ballot of SPD members will begin on Feb. 20 and end on March 2.

The results will be announced on March 4, according to party officials.

The SPD’s left-wing and the party’s youth organization, Jusos, have long opposed a coalition government with the Christian Democrats.

Last September, the Social Democrats suffered their worst election result in decades, but remained the second-largest party in parliament.

Many Social Democrats have blamed their poor showing on the party's membership in the previous “grand coalition.”

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