Germany’s SDP nominates Gabriel as new chairman
Berlin: With the chairman of Germany`s 140-year-old Social Democratic Party stepping down after it was routed in the parliamentary elections, outgoing Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel has been nominated as its new leader.
Gabriel will succeed Franz Muenterferring, who stepped down last week taking responsibility for the debacle in the election that ended just over a week ago.
Gabriel`s nomination by the party Presidium and the 45-member managing board has, however, been criticised by some members because he was hurriedly picked by a small group without consulting the national and regional members.
The members had demanded a thorough debate over the reasons for the party`s rout in the election and its future orientation before nominating a successor to Muenterferring.
Nevertheless, Gabriel received more than 77 per cent of the managing board`s votes.
Gabriel assured his party members that if elected as the chairman by the party congress in mid-November, he would do everything to unite the "deeply-divided" SPD and to build it up again as a major political force in the country.
Speaking shortly after his nomination, the 53-year-old Gabriel pledged to hold discussions at the grassroots level before taking decisions on the party`s future policies.
The party Presidium and managing board also endorsed the nomination of outgoing Labour Minister Olaf Scholz, Governing Mayor of Berlin Klaus Wovereit, Chairman of the SPD in North Rhine Westphalia, Hannelore Kraft and Minister for Social Affairs in Mecklenburg Pomrenia, Manuela Schwesig as four new deputy chairpersons of the party.
Andrea Nahles, until now one of the three deputy chairpersons, was nominated as the new general secretary.
Gabriel will face the daunting task of taking the party out of its worst crisis in its post-war history and to give it a new orientation.
Public support for the party plunged to an all-time low in the parliamentary elections as it received only 23 per cent of the votes, 11.2 per cent less than in the previous election in 2005, and was pushed to the role of the opposition after eleven years in power.
The party`s strength in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, was decimated to 146 seats as it lost 76 seats.
Its unsuccessful candidate and Foreign Minister in the outgoing coalition, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who lost the race against Chancellor Angela Merkel, has already been elected by the newly-constituted parliamentary faction of the party as its new leader.
Steinmeier has, however, indicated that he has no aspirations for the post of party chairman.
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