25 January, 2017
Former European Parliament president Martin Schulz is set to be the leading candidate of the German Social-Democratic Party (SPD) for the elections later this year, after the party's leader Sigmar Gabriel stepped down on Tuesday.
The shake-up comes as the centre-left Social Democrats scramble to pick a strong candidate for Chancellor.
However, polls have suggested that Gabriel has trailed badly behind Merkel in approval ratings. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.theeagleonline.com.ng as the source.
Gabriel is part of Merkel's loveless "grand coalition" government, as well as chairman of the SPD, which, like many of its European sister parties, is riven by disputes between its leftist and centrist wings.
The party is expected to formally decide on Schulz's candidacy for chancellor in the near future.
SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel announced on Tuesday at a press conference at the party headquarters in Berlin that the SPD committee had unanimously made the decision.
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She has also been buoyed by steady economic growth, low unemployment and a dearth of viable challengers within her own party.
"Martin [Schulz] is a prominent Social Democrat, he is the one who can 'build bridges, ' unite people..." Gabriel is the longest serving leader of the SPD since former Chancellor Willy Brandt.
Merkel's Christian Democratic-led bloc leads all polls, well ahead of the Social Democrats.
An insurgent anti-immigration party, the AfD, is now polling at around 15 percent.
Still, if the shakeup improves the party's fortunes, that would open a new front against Merkel, who is already confronting a challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party over her open-border refugee policy.