German SPD leader gives up bid for foreign minister in new gov't

Germany moves toward a new coalition government after major concessions by Angela Merkel

Horst Seehofer, CSU chief and designated interior minister in the new government with the CDU and the Social Democrats (SPD), is to head the committee which is set to meet at 10 am (0900 GMT) in Munich.

Grassroots organizations in the SPD, including the party's youth wing, are already campaigning for a no-vote on the coalition deal.

And in Berlin they demanded that Germany return to the European Union leadership position.

On Thursday, Schulz announced his bid to become Foreign Minister, in a Merkel-led "grand coalition" government.

"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.

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The rare public broadside at his comrades came after SPD and Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU bloc announced a hard-fought coalition deal on Wednesday that could see Schulz claim the Foreign Ministry.

The former president of the European Parliament said he believed the internal dispute of SPD may risk the coalition deal with the Conservatives Union led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"A lot of the SPD members, especially the younger ones that I know feel like they're being betrayed. yes the SPD will get another four years in government but it may actually not be a majority party in another 8-12 years" time, or even at the next election' said Christoph Nguyen, political science researcher at Berlin's Free University. He was officially elected by a party congress with 100 percent of the vote. And there's been all sorts of last-minute drama, with the SPD's Martin Schulz forced into personal climbdown after climbdown to appease his own party.

On Wednesday, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its partner, the Christian Social Union, reached an agreement with the Social Democratic Party, the second largest force in the parliament.

SPD party members still smarting over his decision to renew the loveless "grand coalition" despite initially pledging to take the SPD into opposition.

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Schulz was Merkel's defeated challenger in September.

Tensions are also reported between him and Sigmar Gabriel, an SPD colleague who is now foreign minister.

Merkel has relied on exactly this coalition for two of her three four-year terms.

Second, members realise a rejection of the proposed coalition would leave the party without an easy "exit option" - new elections would likely see the SPD score even worse than the record low 20.5% it secured a year ago, polls putting it around the 17% mark.

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