German coalition under strain as SPD leader falls from grace

German coalition under strain as SPD leader falls from grace

German Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz confirmed on Friday he would not take up the position of foreign minister or serve in the next government, seeking to end a party row over his role and shore up members" support for a new "grand coalition'.

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.

The shock announcement comes just days after Merkel's conservatives and the SPD agreed to form a coalition government.

"At the same time, I sincerely hope that this will end the personnel debates within the SPD.my own personal ambitions must be placed behind the interests of the party", Schulz said.

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Merkel has relied on exactly this coalition for two of her three four-year terms.

The smallest of the parties in Germany's prospective new government has signed off on this week's coalition deal, but bigger hurdles lie ahead.

"The way in which Schulz left could make it hard to quickly focus on the party's achievements in the coalition talks", Carsten Nickel, a Brussels-based analyst at Teneo Intelligence, said in an e-mail response to questions.

Tensions are also reported between him and Sigmar Gabriel, an SPD colleague who is now foreign minister.

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Soraya reports Wednesday on Morning Edition that thegovernment "is moving more to the center on health and welfare benefits for Germans, especially seniors", but that "the ultra-conservatives in the coalition also won a key concession on refugees: There will now be a cap, more or less, of about 200,000 per year and a half-year delay on refugee family reunification, and a maximum, 1,000 relatives per month being allowed to come Germany when that delay is over".

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.

"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.

After the SPD's losses in the September 24 national election, Schulz announced that the SPD would go into coalition and that he wouldn't hold talks with Merkel.

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German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel arrives for the coalition negotiations at CDU headquarters on Tuesday.

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