SPD leader calls on members to back coalition deal with Merkel
Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) must seize the opportunity to reform the EU in a new governing alliance with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the party's interim leader said yesterday in appealing to members to back their coalition deal.
The SPD's 464,000 members vote in a postal ballot beginning next Tuesday on whether the party should go ahead with the agreement its leaders clinched last week to renew their power-sharing alliance with Ms Merkel's conservative bloc.
Olaf Scholz, appointed SPD interim leader on Tuesday, said EU reform plans included in the coalition agreement were a strong reason to back the deal.
"The window of opportunity is now, not in five or 10 years - maybe then it won't be there any more," he told party members in Vilshofen, Bavaria. "We need to act now."
The coalition deal envisages stronger Franco-German co-operation, allocating budget funds for economic stabilisation in Europe, and increased German contributions to the EU budget.
But EU reform is an issue that fails to resonate with many party members who are more concerned with jobs.
Many within the SPD harbour misgivings about sharing power with Ms Merkel, believing the party should rebuild in opposition after suffering its worst result in last September's election since Germany became a federal republic in 1949.
Results of the ballot are due on March 4.
A "no" vote would likely lead to new elections, prolonging uncertainty in Europe's most populous country.
The SPD has slid into disarray since its leaders struck the coalition deal, 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.
Seeking to restore order, Mr Schulz resigned with immediate effect on Tuesday and party leaders installed Mr Scholz as caretaker SPD chairman. They also confirmed that they recommended parliamentary floor leader Andrea Nahles as Mr Schulz's longer-term successor.
The manner in which Mr Schulz originally anointed Ms Nahles as his successor - without broad consultation - rankled with many in the party and resulted in Mr Scholz being appointed as interim leader.
An extraordinary party congress will be held on April 22 to pick a new leader, likely Ms Nahles.