German government wobbles after Social Democrat leader quits

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German government wobbles after Social Democrat leader quits

German Social Democrat leader Andrea Nahles to step down after EU poll losses

The leader of Germany’s center-left Social Democrats announced her resignation Sunday following a series of disappointing election results, raising fresh doubts about the future of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition.

EU election fallout that moved the Greens to second place

Andrea Nahles said she wanted “clarity” after questions were raised about her ability to lead the party. The Social Democrats finished third in last month’s European Parliament election, receiving 15.8% of the vote and coming behind Merkel’s center-right Union bloc with 28.9% and the Greens with 20.5%.

Andrea Nahles has announced her resignation as leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and its parliamentary group, saying she wanted to give the party the chance to elect the next leader in an orderly way after disastrous European election results.

The choice of Nahles’ successor could prove crucial for Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose conservative Christian Democrats CDU/CSU lead the German government in coalition with the Social Democrats. A more left-leaning leader of the SPD could take the party out of the alliance, potentially ending Merkel’s chancellorship.

Initial signals from the CDU suggest the conservatives are determined to keep the coalition together. Merkel’s successor as party leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said she had acknowledged Nahles’ resignation with great respect. “I expect the SPD will make the now necessary personnel decisions quickly, so as not to impair the ability of the grand coalition to act,” she said in a statement to reporters at CDU headquarters in Berlin. “We continue to stand behind the grand coalition.”

An hour later, the chancellor herself appeared at the same spot to underline the point. After praising Nahles’ “fine character,” Merkel said: “We will continue the government’s work with all seriousness, and above all greatly conscious of our responsibility. The issues we must solve are plain — in Germany, in Europe and in the rest of the world.”

There was plenty of evidence on Sunday of the ugly mood within the party. SPD youth organisation chief Kevin Kühnert, an early opponent of joining the grand coalition, and often a left-wing thorn in the leadership’s side, tweeted,

“Everything begins with a simple observation: anyone who wants to brave a new beginning with the promise of fairness and solidarity must never, never, never treat each other the way we have done in the last few weeks. I am ashamed of it.”

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