Germany: The resignation of Martin Schulz
12 February 2018
Just two days after Martin Schulz announced that he would hand over chairmanship of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to Andrea Nahles and head the foreign ministry in a new grand coalition government, he withdrew as incoming foreign minister. The circumstances of his resignation indicate that fierce struggles over power and political orientation are taking place behind the scenes in Berlin.
These struggles are not limited to the SPD and its coalition partner, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), where criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel is growing. On Thursday, the influential editor of the Handelsblatt, Gabor Steingart, was fired by the paper’s publisher and majority shareholder Dieter von Holtzbrinck after Steingart fiercely attacked Schulz in his regular column on Wednesday. Gabor’s sacking, however, could not save Schulz.
Officially, Schulz justified his resignation by declaring that he did not want to endanger the upcoming vote by the SPD membership on the coalition pact. He played a significant role in negotiating the pact. In his letter of resignation, Schulz wrote, “I saw a successful vote at risk due to the discussion surrounding my person.”
Schulz’s decision to take over as foreign minister in the grand coalition provoked widespread consternation in the SPD. Only a few weeks ago, he had declared that he would never join a government led by Angela Merkel. In addition, Schulz’s decision meant the ousting of the acting foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, who, according to opinion polls, is currently the most popular SPD politician.
Some media outlets, with Handelsblatt to the fore, had worked to whip up sentiment against Schulz. In his “Morning Briefing,” Steingart…