Overworked German SPD leader Platzeck resigns

10th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

10 April 2006, BERLIN - The leader of Germany's Social Democrats, Matthias Platzeck, resigned on Monday after less than five months in office, citing health reasons caused by overwork.

10 April 2006

BERLIN - The leader of Germany's Social Democrats, Matthias Platzeck, resigned on Monday after less than five months in office, citing health reasons caused by overwork.

"I overestimated my physical capabilities," said the 52-year-old, who in addition to being chairman of the SPD is also premier of Brandenburg and leader of his party in that state.

Kurt Beck, 57, premier of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and one of Platzeck's five deputies, will take over as acting chairman until a special party congress elects a new leader at the end of May.

Beck told a joint news conference in Berlin that the SPD would continue to be a reliable partner in the grand coalition it formed with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats last November.

"Without a doubt I have had to make the most difficult decision of my life - to heed the advice of doctors and and resign as chairman of the Social Democrats," said a tired and weary-looking Platzeck.

The SPD politician said he had suffered a series of medical setbacks since his election as leader, including two stress-related temporary hearing losses, the last of which put him in hospital for a week.

Platzeck's centre-left SPD established a federal coalition with the centre-right Christian Democrats after neither of their parties managed to win an outright electoral majority.

In recent weeks party officials had expressed concern at opinion polls showing a decline in support for the SPD since it entered into the alliance with Merkel's party.

A poll released the same day as Platzeck was discharged from hospital on April 5 showed the SPD's popularity rating had slipped to 27 per cent, its lowest level of the year, compared to 39 per cent for the CDU.

An SPD congress elected Platzeck chairman with a whopping 99.4 per cent of the vote on November 15, 2005 after the sudden resignation of the previous holder, Franz Muenterfering.

Beck, an electro-technician by training who has been a member of the SPD for 30 years, last month guided the party to an absolute majority in elections in his home state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Analysts saw the elevation of Beck to acting chairman as an indication that the Social Democrats wanted to continue working as closely as possible with the Christian Democrats at national level.

"Beck has had many years of experience in handling coalitions at state levels," Thorsten Polleit, chief economist at Barclay's Capital, told the news channel N-TV.

"He is charismatic, as well as being pragmatic and is willing to compromise. He could become a figure of integration in his new role," Polleit said.

Merkel, who like Platzeck grew up in the east of Germany, said she was saddened to learn of the SPD leader's resignation, but respected his decision.

The chancellor praised "the intensive and very good cooperation" with the outgoing chairman and pledged to work with his successor "in the spirit of the grand coalition."

Guido Westerwelle, chairman of the opposition Free Democrats, said: "We worked well together with with Herr Platzeck and will continue to work with Herr Back in the same manner."

Beck said he would run as a candidate for the chairmanship when the SPD holds its special congress to pick Platzeck's successor at the end of next month.


Subject: German news

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