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1ST LEAD New battle lines drawn in centre-left SPD over German coalition deal By Georg Ismar and Bill Heaney, dpa

Europe
09.02.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Berlin (dpa) - The ink is barely dry on the new German coalition agreement and yet new battle lines have been drawn within the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) over whether to enter government with Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s conservatives at all.

Kevin Kuehnert, the leader of the party‘s youth wing, is scheduled later Friday in the eastern city of Leipzig to launch a campaign for the party‘s over 460,000 members to reject the agreement in a binding vote to be held between February 20 and the first weekend of March.

The SPD‘s youth wing, known by their German abbreviation Jusos, have been very vocal opponents of reviving the so-called grand coalition with the conservatives, fearing the party‘s socialist identity will be lost in a government led by Merkel.

The Jusos and many SPD grass-roots members feel that the party is losing credibility after their leader, Martin Schulz, initially said his party would go into opposition after its worst result since 1949 in September‘s election. Schulz also said he would not take a post in a new government with the conservatives. He has made a complete U-turn on both pledges.

Schulz‘s decision to accept the post of foreign minister has also irked the incumbent, his party colleague Sigmar Gabriel, who called the move "disrespectful" on Thursday evening.

Gabriel seemed more sanguine in reports on Friday. "For me a new time is beginning," he told the newspapers of the Funke Media Group.

"My little daughter Marie said to me early this morning: ‘You mustn‘t be sad, Daddy, now you have more time for us. That‘s better than with the man with the hair on his face,‘" Gabirel said, referencing the fact that Schulz has a beard.

But SPD general secretary Lars Klingbeil on Thursday played down the risk that the party membership would reject the deal after Schulz accepted the post of foreign minister.

"We negotiated a good result with convincing social-democratic content. I am confident that the majority of SPD members will also see it that way," Klingbeil told dpa.

There are also rumblings within Merkel‘s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party over the agreement, which saw the party sacrifice the Finance portfolio to the SPD and Interior to its Bavarian-based sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

"It‘s actually seething in all places" among the grass-roots members of the CDU/CSU, Paul Ziemiak, the head of their youth wing told Deutschlandfunk radio station on Thursday.

He called for "signs of renewal" within the party: "It simply can‘t be ‘more of the same‘ in this government ... the [CDU/CSU] has to rediscover itself in its line-up, in its brand essence, but also for the future."

 

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