Heads roll at German Social Democrats after defeat

30th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, foreign minister and vice-chancellor and challenger to Merkel in Sunday's election, survived the bloodbath and was nominated as the party's parliamentary head.

Berlin -- The leader of Germany's centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and other top officials quit Tuesday after the party's worst election result since World War II that relegated it to the opposition.

Franz Muentefering, former right hand man of the SPD's last chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, announced he was quitting as party leader following the loss to Chancellor Angela Merkel, sources told AFP.

Merkel won a second term in Sunday's general election, replacing the SPD with the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) as her coalition partners in a new centre-right government.

Sigmar Gabriel, environment minister in the SPD's coalition with Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), is the favourite to replace Muentefering as chairman, the sources added.

General secretary Hubertus Heil said he would not stand for another term, while Peer Steinbrueck, finance minister, said he was quitting as one of the party's three deputy chairs.

Andrea Nahles, seen as a left-winger in the party, is seen as a possible successor to Heil, while Klaus Wowereit, the mayor of Berlin, could become a deputy chairman.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, foreign minister and vice-chancellor and challenger to Merkel in Sunday's election, survived the bloodbath and was nominated as the party's parliamentary head on Tuesday.

The vacant posts will be filled officially at what looks set to be a stormy party convention in November.

The SPD has been in government for 11 years, seven under Schroeder in coalition with the Greens, and four in coalition with Merkel's CDU/CSU.

Hard-hitting labour market and social security reforms in the Schroeder years led to a split in the SPD and it lost many left-wing voters to the Linke, a party of SPD defectors and former East German communists.

The SPD's election debacle left the party with only 146 seats in the lower house of parliament, compared to 221 previously.

AFP/Expatica

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