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First defeat for Merkel 4.0 as would-be foreign minister quits

AFP  |  Berlin 

German Angela Merkel's hoped-for fourth suffered a first defeat today before even being sworn in, as prospective foreign stepped back after a series of U-turns. The perception among activists that Schulz had fashioned himself a life raft from the wreckage of an election disaster threatened chances the rank and file would green-light a controversial coalition deal sealed just two days ago. "I hereby renounce joining the federal and at the same time implore that this should be an end to debates about personalities," Schulz said in a statement. "My own personal ambitions must be placed behind the interests of the party." Schulz managed this week to clinch a coalition deal with Merkel's CDU/CSU that gave his centre-left six ministries as well as securing a string of policy concessions. But reneging on his vow not to serve as a in a Merkel-led cabinet prompted a wave of criticism from many party members still smarting over his decision to renew the loveless "grand coalition" despite initially pledging to take the into opposition. Schulz's choice to step aside to help secure an vote in favour of a stable "deserves the highest respect and recognition," said Andrea Nahles, his likely successor as The move leaves the former empty-handed, after a disastrous year that saw him lead the to its worst-ever score since World War II in September elections, with just 20.5 percent of the vote. Schulz's retreat is also far from certain to ensure approval in the upcoming postal ballot of some 460,000 Social Democrats, and will do nothing to quiet grumbling among Merkel's troops over the coalition deal. Kevin Kuehnert, the of the SPD's youth wing, made clear Friday that he remained determined to block a repeat deal with Merkel. "I've just begun my 'no grand coalition' tour" of Germany, he tweeted. "The political carnival in is far away." A survey by pollsters Civey found this week that around 60 percent of supporters would back the party entering once again. But it is unclear whether the party membership will be as open to supporting Merkel. Nahles said in an interview with television this week she was confident the "very bold" left-wing character of the contract with Merkel would win members over. The result of the vote is expected to be announced on March 4. CDU delegates will get their own chance to vote on the coalition deal at a party congress on February 24. There is little chance they will block it, but the gathering will show off just how much Merkel's star has faded among a base that has long been loyal to the hilt, as a growing volume of grumbling has made clear since this week. The coalition agreement "certainly won't simply be waved through," told mass-market daily Bild. The chancellor's power pact includes concessions to the left on key policy issues, cedes the powerful to the and opens to potentially costly reforms to the and euro single currency that horrify conservatives. "The CDU is structurally weakened in the and loses influence" under the deal, influential lawmaker Norbert Roettgen said. For the German press, such open resistance to Merkel is a sign that the long-serving leader could be on the way out. "has succeeded, she will remain if the members vote for the coalition deal.

But her farewell to power has begun, and thereby the debate about her succession," weekly commented.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, February 09 2018. 22:20 IST