Germany coalition: SPD leader Martin Schulz resigns

Angela Merkekl

Martin Schulz has resigned as the head of Germany's Social Democrats, Deutsche Welle reports.

Under the prevailing statues of the SPD, the party's parliamentary vice-presidents are designated to take charge in the vacant period between the departure of an old and inauguration of a new party leader.

This comes as the leader of the SPD Mr Schulz will hand over the role of leader of the SPD to Andrea Nahles.

With many SPD members harboring misgivings about sharing power with Merkel again, the result of the vote, due on March 4, is wide open.

The SPD's 464,000 members vote in a postal ballot beginning on February 20 on whether the party should go ahead with the agreement its leaders clinched last week to renew their power sharing alliance with Merkel's conservative bloc.

Kevin Kuehnert, who leads the SPD's youth wing and is campaigning for members to vote against another tie-up with Merkel, welcomed the decision as he said it would enable the party to focus completely on the members' coalition ballot. If members vote "no" to the coalition deal, a new election looks the most likely option. "It is clear, unfortunately, that the public's regard for my work meant absolutely nothing to the new SPD leadership".

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Andrea Nahles also said she would fight for the ruling coalition with the conservatives of Angela Merkel.

Schulz is expected to take a seat on the SPD's backbenches.

In a cartoon on Tuesday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily showed Nahles with a whip riding an SPD snail.

Gabriel last week launched an extraordinary attack against the party's leadership, apparently angry because Schulz was planning to take up Gabriel's position as foreign minister. The SPD was at a record low of 16.5 percent, barely 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.

The SPD has slid into disarray since its leaders struck the coalition deal last week, blighted by bitter divisions over whether to join the coalition, a loss of confidence in outgoing leader Martin Schulz and discontent over the succession process.

Scholz played up the SPD's achievements in coalition negotiations with Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and her Bavarian allies, at which the centre-left party won the powerful finance ministry to the frustration of many in the CDU.

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