By Ayhan Simsek
Germany's Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz has officially relinquished his bid to become foreign minister, and announced that he would not hold a cabinet post in the new coalition government.
Schulz’s surprise announcement on Friday came two days after he struck a deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc CDU/CSU to form a grand coalition government.
Senior figures of Social Democratic Party (SPD), including the current Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, have publicly criticized Schulz and accused him of not keeping his promises.
Schulz said, growing debate surrounding his bid for Foreign Ministry portfolio, could jeopardize the upcoming vote of SPD members on the coalition agreement.
“Therefore, I hereby declare that I am withdrawing my bid to enter the federal government, and sincerely hope that this would end the candidacy debate within the SPD,” Schulz said in a written statement.
Soon after elections last September, Schulz ruled out entering a Merkel-led coalition government, and stressed that SPD would assume the role of main opposition.
But upon the failure of coalition talks between Merkel’s conservatives, the liberal FDP and Greens, Schulz led Social Democrats in coalition negotiations with the CDU/CSU alliance.
On Thursday, Schulz announced his bid to become Foreign Minister, in a Merkel-led “grand coalition” government.
The coalition agreement between the Social Democrats and Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc is still subject to approval from the SPD’s around 460,000 members.
A postal ballot of SPD members will begin on Feb. 20 and end on March 2. The results will be announced on March 4, according to party officials.
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.
Last September, the Social Democrats suffered their worst election result in decades, but remained the second-largest party in parliament.
Many Social Democrats have blamed their poor showing on the party's membership in the previous “grand coalition.”