Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel`s main rival in the recently-concluded parliamentary polls has stepped down from the leadership of his Social Democratic Party taking responsibility for the massive electoral defeat.
Peer Steinbrueck, 66, who was chancellor Angela Merkel`s main rival in the election, told delegates of his Social Democratic Party`s federal and state units here last evening that he is withdrawing from active politics and has no intention to take up any new posts in the party or in the parliamentary faction, media reports said.
Even though the SPD under his leadership made some moderate gains in the election last Sunday with 25.7 per cent votes polled. This was the party`s second-worst result in a national election in post-war Germany.
Steinbrueck told the delegates that he takes responsibility for the party`s election debacle.
Pressure has been mounting on the SPD to join a new coalition with the CDU, which narrowly missed an absolute majority.
The CDU and its Bavarian sister party CSU secured 41.7 per cent of the votes in the polls, the second best election result for the conservative bloc in a national election.
But Merkel`s centre-right coalition was voted out of power in the election as junior partner liberal Free Democratic Party failed to cross the threshold of five per cent of the votes needed to gain parliamentary representation.
An opinion poll yesterday showed that nearly 60 per cent of the voters are in favour of a "grand coalition" between the CDU and the SPD.
Steinbrueck, a former state premier in North Rhine Westphalia, had during his election campaign firmly ruled out joining another coalition government under Merkel`s leadership.
He was the finance minister in the first "grand coalition" she led between 2005 and 2009.
SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel told journalists after yesterday`s meeting that a majority of around 200 delegates voted in favour of taking up coalition negotiations with the CDU and agreed to form a six-member team to carry out "exploratory talks".
The SPD will for the first time present the outcome of the negotiations to its 470,000 members and seek their approval before signing a coalition agreement with the CDU, he said.