END OF MERKEL: Socialists pulling chancellor 'into DOWNFALL' as party 'DETERIORATES'

END OF MERKEL: Socialists pulling chancellor 'into DOWNFALL' as party 'DETERIORATES'

Germany's embattled Social Democratic leader Martin Schulz abruptly dropped his bid to become Chancellor Angela Merkel's next foreign minister, saying an outcry over his claim to the post endangers a critical membership vote to end the country's political impasse.

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer and Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz pose after a statement on coalition talks to form a new coalition government in Berlin, Germany, February 7, 2018.

"I hereby declare my renunciation of joining the federal government and at the same time sincerely hope that this will end the personnel debates within the SPD", he said.

The move leaves the former European Parliament president empty-handed, after a disastrous year that saw him lead the SPD to its worst-ever score since World War II in September elections, with just 20.5 percent of the vote.

Under the terms of the deal struck between Merkel and Schulz earlier this week, the SPD will keep the foreign ministry it held in the last government and also take over the finance ministry from the CDU.

Schulz managed this week to clinch a coalition deal with Merkel's CDU/CSU that gave his centre-left SPD six ministries as well as securing a string of policy concessions. In addition to the controversy over Schulz, Merkel herself has been under fire for giving key ministries to the SPD to extend her 12-year reign over Europe's biggest economy.

Many young and leftist members are against the renewed so-called Grand Coalition between the SPD and the Union.

Another party official told a Bild: "The party is deteriorating".

His announcement also upset Germany's current foreign minister - veteran SPD member Sigmar Gabriel - who complained of a "lack of respect" and said he was popular among ordinary Germans.

If a deal emerges, it won't bring an immediate end to the political limbo following Germany's September 24 election. He also wants to create the post of European Union finance minister.

Any agreement will be submitted to a ballot of the Social Democrats' members, a process that will take a few weeks.

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