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German SPD to Back Merkel Coalition to Halt Slump, Left Says

German SPD to Back Merkel Coalition to Halt Slump, Left Says

In the hope of stabilizing the party, many in the leadership wanted to install Andrea Nahles, the popular head of the party's parliamentary group, as interim leader.

Nahles still needs to be formally nominated by the party executive, which is meeting on Tuesday evening.

Deeply divided over the coalition deal and the division of ministerial posts, and facing a slump in opinion polls, SPD leaders are trying to convince 464,000 party members to back the deal in a ballot on which Merkel's fourth term hangs.

Last Monday, the SPD reached an agreement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Conservatives Union to form a grand cabinet in formal government coalition negotiations, a move likely to end the longest ever new government vacuum after the September 24 federal elections.

The Social Democrats last week reached a coalition government deal with Merkel's bloc that is widely viewed as favorable to the party.

German Foreign Minister Gabriel lashed out at Martin Schulz, saying his party colleague had broken a promise not to serve in Chancellor Angela Merkel's new cabinet.

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The most urgent matter for the SPD is to get a new leader in place after Martin Schulz said last week he would quit to allow the party to regroup.

Just 33 percent of German citizens said the SPD would be more successful under Nahles, while 52 percent did not expect this to be the case.

Nahles, a plain-speaking 47-year-old former labour minister with a left-wing slant and strong oratory skills, is the frontrunner and would become the first female leader in the party's 154-year history. The SPD was at a record low of 16.5 percent, barely ahead of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). The party's youth wing is already campaigning for a no-vote as it fears that another grand coalition with Mrs Merkel's conservatives will further erode the party's identity.

The turmoil in the SPD can only distract from criticism of Merkel from within her own party after she handed the foreign and finance ministries to the SPD to secure the coalition deal.

Merkel annoyed members of her Christian Democrats (CDU) by agreeing in the coalition talks to cede the finance ministry to the SPD.

German media report that SPD members in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia were especially opposed to Mr Schulz - formerly European Parliament president - becoming foreign minister. But he changed his mind after the Union failed to form a government with two small parties.


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