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Embattled Schulz abandons bid for foreign ministry
February 10, 2018
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Berlin: Germany’s embattled centre-left leader Martin Schulz said on Friday he would abandon a bid to become foreign minister in a new coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel, after massive resistance from his own party.

“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 Social Democratic Party (SPD), Schulz said in a statement.

“My own personal ambitions must be placed behind the interests of the party.”

The SPD and Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc announced a hard-fought coalition deal on Wednesday that included big concessions to the centre-left, among them six ministries including finance and foreign affairs.

Schulz’s claim on the foreign ministry marked his second major U-turn since September elections that ground the storied labour party down to just 20.5 per cent of the vote.

The former European Parliament chief had previously ruled out both repeating the left-right “grand coalition” for a third time under Merkel, and serving as a minister in her cabinet.

With the coalition deal subject to a yes-or-no referendum by all 460,000 of the SPD rank and file, the sound of activists’ teeth grinding at Schulz’s apparent move to secure himself a cosy job had by Friday become impossible to ignore.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel lashed out at Schulz, saying his party colleague had broken a promise not to serve in Merkel’s new cabinet.

“What’s left is regret at how little respect there is in the Social Democratic Party in our dealings with one another, and how little someone’s word counts for,” Gabriel told the Funke newspaper group.

Although Gabriel is one of Germany’s most popular politicians — scoring a 57-per cent approval rating in an ARD television poll this month — there is no job waiting in Merkel’s fourth government.

“I enjoyed taking on the office of foreign minister, and in the eyes of the public I apparently did a good and successful job,” Gabriel said.

“I regret that it’s clear the public’s esteem for my work means absolutely nothing to the SPD leadership.”

Gabriel is still in office in a caretaker capacity while the proposed coalition deal is put to a referendum of SPD members.

But he cancelled a scheduled appearance at next week’s high-profile Munich Security Conference in a show of pique.

Agencies

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