Martin Schulz, the leader of Germany’s Social Democratic party, has announced that he will not take up a ministerial post in the next coalition government, despite gaining key roles for his party from Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
Schulz, who was rumoured to be heading for the foreign ministry after agreeing a coalition deal with the CDU on Wednesday, said in a statement that he feared the upcoming SPD membership vote, which is required to approve a renewed “grand coalition”, could be “endangered by the discussion surrounding my person”.
“I therefore herewith announce that I will forego entering into government,” Schulz said. “We all do politics for the people in this country. That requires my personal ambitions to stand behind the interests of the party.”
Only days after looking like he would play an influential role in global politics over the next four years, Schulz’s political career could come to an abrupt end.
His decision marks the end of 12 months of dramatic highs and lows for the former European parliament president. Elected as leader of his party with 100% of the vote in January 2017, early polls suggested he could unseat the chancellor in the election in September. In the end, Schulz presided over the SPD’s worst result since the end of the second world war.
Having ruled out entering a Merkel-led coalition government in the immediate aftermath of the election, Schulz made a U-turn after the chancellor’s attempt to build an unorthodox coalition with the pro-business Free Democratic party and the Green party collapsed. The move drew criticism from SPD members, who believed their party should reinvent itself in opposition.
Over the past few weeks of coalition talks, Schulz emerged as a canny negotiator, however, using his seemingly weak position to claim the finance, foreign and labour ministries for his party.
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