Angela Merkel Criticised By Own Party Over Coalition

Meet the Social Democrat poised to run Merkel's finance ministry

The leader of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), Martin Schulz, has abandoned a plan to serve as foreign minister in a new coalition government.

Germany's Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz has officially relinquished his bid to become foreign minister, and announced that he would not hold a cabinet post in the new coalition government.

The SPD's 460,000 members will have the final say on the whole agreement in a postal vote, the result of which will be announced on 2 March.

Merkel, who leads the Christian Democrats (CDU), ceded the powerful finance ministry to the SPD in a coalition deal finally agreed on Wednesday, more than four months after a national election last September in which both blocs lost support.

Schulz's surprise announcement on Friday came two days after he struck a deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc CDU/CSU to form a grand coalition government.

"I hereby renounce joining the federal government and at the same time implore that this should be an end to debates about personalities" within the SPD, Schulz said in a statement.

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Many Social Democrats don't want to revive the "grand" coalition of Germany's two biggest parties, which underpinned two of Merkel's three terms.

If a deal emerges, it won't bring an immediate end to the political limbo following Germany's September 24 election.

Schulz's choice to step aside "deserves the highest respect and recognition", said Andrea Nahles, his likely successor as party chair.

The new coalition will put the far-right Alternative for Germany, the third-largest party in the German parliament, known as the Bundestag, in the opposition. He reversed that position under pressure in November after Merkel's talks with the Greens and Free Democrats to form a multi-party government collapsed in acrimony.

For the SPD, the backbiting went public when Gabriel, Germany's acting foreign minister, attacked the leadership for planning to remove him from his post - and implying that he'd been promised that he could continue as the country's top diplomat.

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