Germany’s Social Democrats leader quits after election blow

BERLIN (AP) — The leader of Germany’s center-left Social Democrats, a junior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition, announced her resignation Sunday following days of speculation over the fallout from the party’s debacle in the European Parliament election.

Andrea Nahles said she wanted “clarity” after questions were raised about her ability to lead the party.

“The necessary support for me to carry out my duties isn’t there anymore,” she said in a statement.

Nahles said she will be stepping down from her post as chairwoman of the Social Democrats and leader of its parliamentary faction in the coming days to ensure that her successors are found “in an orderly fashion.”

The Social Democrats fell to third place behind Merkel’s center-right Union bloc and the Greens in the May 26 European Parliament election in Germany.

Nahles took over as party leader in February 2018, as the Social Democrats reluctantly extended their “grand coalition” with Merkel’s conservatives following a poor showing in the previous year’s German election.

While the Social Democrats have managed to push through their agenda of improving social welfare and working conditions for millions of Germans, voters haven’t rewarded the party for it in the polls.

Instead, many have turned to the environmentalist Greens, the far-right anti-migrant Alternative for Germany, the socialist Left party or Merkel’s increasingly centrist Union bloc in recent years.

An election loss last week in a longtime bastion of the Social Democrats, the tiny northwestern state of Bremen, and the prospect of further defeats in upcoming regional votes in eastern Germany this fall has alarmed many in the party.

“The party is in an extremely serious situation,” said Nahles’ deputy Malu Dreyer, the governor of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. “If we don’t manage to stick together and find a way out of it then things will look really bleak.”

Dreyer told reporters in Berlin that senior party officials would meet Monday to discuss the next steps.

Former party leader Sigmar Gabriel told the daily Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung that the Social Democrats needed a “detox” to prevent internal power struggles from further harming the party.

The Social Democrats had planned to hold a midterm review of the coalition with Merkel’s bloc later this year, raising the prospect of an early end to the coalition.

Merkel, who handed the leadership of her Christian Democratic Union party to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in December, has said she wants to stay on as chancellor until her fourth term ends when Germany holds its next national election in late 2021.

The Christian Democrats were meeting late Sunday to review their own election result, but that is likely to be overshadowed by discussions about the future of the governing coalition.

Both Merkel and Kramp-Karrenbauer planned to comment on Nahles’ resignation on the sidelines of the meeting.


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