Crumbling under criticism, Schulz drops bid for foreign minister job

Senior figures of Social Democratic Party (SPD), including the current Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, have publicly criticized Schulz and accused him of not keeping his promises.

On Thursday, Schulz announced his bid to become Foreign Minister, in a Merkel-led "grand coalition" government.

Kevin Kühnert, the leader of the youth wing of the Social Democrats said the result of the party vote could go either way: "This is not easy to tell, I think the [outcome of] the ballot is completely open".

"I hereby declare my renunciation of joining the federal government and at the same time sincerely hope that this will end the personnel debates within the SPD", he said.

"My own personal ambitions must be placed behind the interests of the party".

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.

Merkel faced an uphill struggle to maintain power for another four years following a disastrous election campaign.

But many younger members are unhappy with party's soon to be ex-leader Martin Schulz's decision to join forces. The deal comes at a significant cost to Merkel, who has had to relinquish control of three ministries of state and agree to a number of coalition demands.

The Social Democrats are putting the coalition deal agreed on Wednesday to a ballot of all their members.

Many grassroots members in the center-left party are sceptical about another tie-up with Merkel after the SPD suffered it worst election result of the postwar era in September's election.

Schulz's choice to step aside "deserves the highest respect and recognition", said Andrea Nahles, his likely successor as party chair.

Merkel's CDU is holding a party congress February 26 to endorse the deal.

  • Rogelio Becker