German SPD leader gives up bid for foreign minister in new gov't

Meet the Social Democrat poised to run Merkel's finance ministry

German coalition deal reached

Deutche Welle reports: "Early reports suggested that the SPD would be handed the Finance Ministry - a major gain for the Social Democrats - while CSU leader Horst Seehofer, one of the most conservative figures on Merkel's side, would become Interior Minister".

In a statement, Schulz said he believed that debate within the SPD risked jeopardising a "yes" vote among members on whether the party should go ahead with a coalition deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, reached on Wednesday.

Two days after negotiating an agreement that gives the SPD the powerful foreign and finance ministries, Schulz said his personal ambitions must take a backseat to the party's interests. He was officially elected by a party congress with 100 percent of the vote.

The SPD, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union reached the coalition deal on Wednesday, which will possibly end the new government vacuum since the September 24 federal election, the longest period ever since 1949.

A Forsa poll had indicated that nearly three-quarters of Germans thought it would be wrong for Schulz to become foreign minister.

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"I hereby declare my decision not to join the federal government and at the same time I sincerely hope that this will end the personnel debates within the SPD", said Mr Schulz. The paper cited Friedrich Merz, a former CDU rival whom Merkel sidelined after becoming party chairwoman in 2000, as saying the coalition deal was a "humiliation" for the Christian Democrats.

Many Social Democrats have blamed their poor showing on the party's membership in the previous "grand coalition".

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

The SPD's traditional left-wing youth organization, Jusos, have opposed a coalition government with the Christian Democrats, and called for reform within the party.

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

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