Social Democrats elect Steinmeier chancellor candidate
The party approved Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as its candidate for chancellor, with 95.1 percent of the vote.
Berlin -- Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) formally approved its leadership slate to take it into next year's federal elections at a party meeting in Berlin Saturday.
The party approved Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as its candidate for chancellor, with 95.1 percent of the vote. He will oppose incumbent Angela Merkel, of the Christian Democrats, in the Sept. 29, 2009 election.
"If I have your trust, then I am ready," he said ahead of the vote. He promised to make Germany "better and more humane."
Steinmeier also promised to pick up the work of former SPD chancellors if he takes on the job. But he urged the party to work together to realize that goal.
"Forget faint-heartedness," he told his party members. "Show confidence and self-awareness. Come together."
Additionally, he said that the ongoing financial crisis has slammed the door shut on an era typified by leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. He said new rules to control financial markets would not be sufficient, leaving it to parties like the SPD to chart a new beginning.
But the SPD faces a steep climb in its quest for the chancellor's office.
It has consistently earned low poll ratings in recent years. Steinmeier is currently Merkel's vice chancellor because neither of their parties could garner enough votes in the 2005 federal elections to form a government alone or in coalition with more like-minded smaller parties, the Greens and the FDP.
That forced the countries' two largest parties together into an uneasy grand coalition.
The formal vote comes six weeks after the party reorganized itself. In the reorganization, party leader Kurt Beck gave up his office and Steinmeier was cleared to become the party’s chancellor candidate.
The SPD also voted Saturday to reinstate Franz Muentefering as party head. He garnered about 85 percent of the votes to resume the role he gave up in 2005.
The vote comes a little more than a year after Muentefering gave up a ministry seat to care for his sick wife, Ankepetra. She died earlier this year. Shortly after, Muentefering opted to resume a larger party role.