Germany’s Social Democrats to unveil new leader, government hangs in the balance

Germany’s centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) will announce its new leader at its party conference today. An initial vote by

spd leadership vote

Photo: Reuters/Annegret Hilse

Germany’s centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) will announce its new leader at its party conference today.

An initial vote by party members, held on October 26, failed to determine a clear winner. Two pairs of prospective leaders—Klara Geywitz and Olaf Scholz from the centre-left faction and Saskia Esken and Norbert Borjans from the left-leaning faction—will contest today’s runoff. This is the first time the SPD has allowed a two-person ticket, requiring that one candidate be male and the other female.

The candidates are divided on the party’s most important policy question: whether or not the SPD should continue to ally with Angela Merkel’s centre-right coalition. If the SPD splinters off from the governing coalition, either a snap election will result, or Merkel’s coalition will become a minority government.

Geywitz and Scholz say they will stay in the ruling alliance with Merkel’s conservatives, while Esken and Borjans say they will leave the alliance, arguing that the party has compromised its identity and policy stances. The most recent opinion polls show Esken and Borjans leading by a 19-point margin. If this pair emerges victorious, the likely outcome would be the collapse of Germany’s ruling coalition, unless Merkel compromises on a host of issues.

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