Martin Schulz: I won't be German foreign minister

The SPD announced on Wednesday that it will go into government with Angela Merkel's CDU and its Bavarian Sister Party the CSU.

A deal to govern with Chancellor Merkel's conservatives still has to be endorsed by SPD members.

But the relief turned to shock as Martin Schulz, the SPD leader, announced he would step down to become foreign minister.

This tougher stance was already on display in the rhetoric voiced during the recent visit to Israel by Germany's current foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, also an SPD politician.

"A lot of the SPD members, especially the younger ones that I know feel like they're being betrayed. yes the SPD will get another four years in government but it may actually not be a majority party in another 8-12 years" time, or even at the next election' said Christoph Nguyen, political science researcher at Berlin's Free University.

He added that his personal ambitions "must be placed behind the interests of the party".

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The move defuses a crisis that was threatening to rip the SPD apart ahead of a vote on whether to approve the coalition agreement that was clinched by the party this week with the conservative CDU/CSU bloc.

Soon after elections last September, Schulz ruled out entering a Merkel-led coalition government, and stressed that SPD would assume the role of main opposition.

In a statement on Friday, Schulz said he thought discussion about him and his role could harm support for the proposed new coalition in the SPD members' ballot.

It was Schulz's second major U-turn since the September elections that ground the storied centre-left party down to just 20.5% of the vote.

Analysts predict there is little chance they will block it - although the gathering will show off just how much Merkel's star has faded among a base that has always been loyal to the hilt.

  • Adam Floyd