Posted on: Deutsche Welle | June 2nd, 2019
Auhtor: Ben Knight

Andrea Nahles, the leader of Germany’s SPD, has announced her resignation following poor results for her party at the European elections. The move could destabilize Angela Merkel’s coalition.

Andrea Nahles on Sunday announced her resignation as leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and its parliamentary group, saying she wanted to give the party the chance to organize her successor in an orderly manner.

The choice of Nahles’ successor could prove crucial for Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leads the German government in coalition with the Social Democrats. A more left-leaning leader of the SPD could potentially take the party out of the alliance, ending Merkel’s chancellorship.

«The discussions within the parliamentary group and the large amount of feedback from the party have shown me that there is no longer support for me in holding these offices,» Nahles wrote in a statement to SPD members.

She said she would step down as party leader on Monday and as parliamentary leader on Tuesday.

The announcement follows her party’s dire result at European parliamentary elections in May, which saw the SPD coming third behind the CDU and the environmentalist Greens, with only 15.8% of the German vote, an 11-point drop from 2014.

Nahles’ announcement is a surprise, coming after she called a vote on her leadership for Tuesday. She also appears to be withdrawing from her political career altogether. Citing a party spokesperson, the DPA news agency and the Funke Media Group reported that Nahles intends to resign her seat in the Bundestag, though a date for that departure has not been set.

First female leader

Nahles became leader of the SPD in April 2018, having led the party’s parliamentary group since September 2017. Nahles is the first woman to have headed the party, which has roots going back to 1863, making it the oldest extant party in the German parliament.

Since 2013, the SPD has governed in «grand coalitions» with the conservative bloc formed by Merkel’s CDU and the Bavarian Christian Social Union.

But following a historically poor result in the 2017 general election, when the party gained only 20.5% of the national vote, there was intense pressure from the party’s grassroots membership and left-wing not to join forces with Merkel once again.

The widespread perception among political analysts and party members was that governing under Merkel’s shadow had only damaged the party, leaving it unable to find a clear political profile. Nevertheless, the SPD was crucial in shaping some of Merkel’s government policies, including introducing a national minimum wage.

It was only after the collapse of Merkel’s talks with the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens in late 2017 that the SPD leadership opted to help the chancellor form a new government after all, with Nahles one of the chief proponents of the move.

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