SPD boss Gabriel to challenge Merkel in polls
10 Jan 2017 - 23:19
Berlin: The chairman of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), Sigmar Gabriel (pictured), has decided to run against conservative Angela Merkel for the chancellorship in September’s federal election, the newspaper Bild reported yesterday.
The report backs up what senior party sources said last week, that there is no realistic alternative to Gabriel, vice chancellor and economy minister in Merkel’s right-left coalition of the last four years.
A spokesman for Gabriel said the party was sticking to its planned timetable. “The SPD will decide on its candidate for chancellor on January 29,” he said.
Senior party members are holding a closed-door meeting to discuss election strategy, but the question of who will be party’s top candidate will not be discussed officially, Bild reported.
The paper said the SPD’s last chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, had urged Gabriel to stand. “You must make clear you really want it,” the newspaper cites Schroeder as saying, adding: “Otherwise I’m ready to do it again.”
Gabriel has long favoured to stand against Merkel, but some party members had hoped that Martin Schulz, the former president of European Parliament, would take on the role. That now looks unlikely, since he is tipped to become foreign minister, replacing Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whom ruling parties have agreed to elect as German president next month.
Gabriel, a 57-year-old former school teacher, trails Merkel in popularity ratings. He has a reputation for being unpredictable, but he is more popular with the SPD rank and file than his recent predecessors.
Although the SPD wants to win enough votes to form a coalition with the Greens and possibly radical Left party, most analysts think another ‘grand coalition’ is most likely outcome with Merkel clinching a fourth term.
An INSA poll in Bild yesterday showed Merkel’s conservatives on 32 percent, unchanged from last week, and SPD also stable on 21 percent. The combined total for the SPD, Greens and Left was 41 percent.