Germany gears up for election as SPD chooses candidate to face Merkel

Sigmar Gabriel (L) and Martin Schulz (R) are set to compete for their party's nomination for chancellor. [European Parliament]

On Sunday (29 January), Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) will meet to nominate its candidate to face Angela Merkel for the decisive upcoming election. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

By Sunday afternoon, the guessing games will be over and the SPD will have decided whether it should be Sigmar Gabriel, its incumbent leader, Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, or Olaf Scholz, the current mayor of Hamburg, to face off against current chancellor Angela Merkel.

SPD delegates will gather in the morning and at around 13:00 the nominee will address the meeting, sharing their vision for a campaign that will run right the way up to the 24 September vote.

As incumbent, Gabriel has first bite at the cherry. But if he fails in his bid to be the party’s candidate, he may have to resign his chairmanship of the SPD.

That is something that Gabriel, who is currently the vice-chancellor, would like to avoid and it is not implausible that he would actually pass up a go at the top job and instead support Scholz or Schulz.

Schulz to give up European Parliament for German politics

Martin Schulz will announce this morning (24 November) that he is giving up his bid to serve another term as European Parliament president and will instead campaign for a seat in the German Bundestag in next year’s elections.

Doubts remain, backed up by polling figures going back months, over whether Gabriel is actually capable of competing with Merkel for the chancellorship.

Some MEPs hope that their colleague and former leader, Martin Schulz, will be given the nod. But Schulz has been heavily tipped to succeed outgoing Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (also SPD) as Germany’s chief diplomat, as he takes up the presidency of the Bundesrepublik.

The SPD would struggle to field a more suitable candidate to take over from Steinmeier and this may count against Schulz.

Far-right 'counter-summit' claims 'Europe will wake up in 2017'

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen urged European voters to follow the example of Americans and the British and “wake up” in 2017, at a meeting of far-right leaders aiming to oust established parties in elections this year.

During a period of what the SPD has itself called “uncertainty”, following the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, the likelihood of Schulz being able to juggle both the foreign minister job and campaign for the chancellorship is slim.

As a result, SPD sources have claimed that the most likely option, if Gabriel does not stand himself, is for Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz to be given the nomination. Unlike his party leader, Scholz is considered to be a reliable hand, not unlike Merkel herself.

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