German SPD Leader Seeks to Stifle Chancellor-Candidate Debate

(Bloomberg) -- The leader of Germany’s Social Democrats sought to smother debate about who will run as the party’s candidate for chancellor at the next general election, saying it’s too early to decide with the vote not due until late 2021.

SPD Chairwoman Andrea Nahles made her comments as the party’s parliamentary caucus begins a two-day meeting in Berlin to discuss how to reverse a collapse in support that threatens their coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. If the SPD does not manage to improve on recent results in this year’s European and regional elections, it could pull the plug on Merkel’s government and trigger an early national vote.

German SPD Leader Seeks to Stifle Chancellor-Candidate Debate

Nahles was asked in a television interview on Thursday about comments made at the weekend by her party deputy Olaf Scholz, the Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor. Scholz, responding to a question from Bild am Sonntag newspaper, said that a deputy head of government must be confident about stepping up to the top job and the next chancellor should be from the SPD. He added that it is not the right time to be deciding on a candidate.

Nahles echoed Scholz’s comment about timing, saying she does not want to “add more fuel to the fire by starting yet another discussion.”

“But we, all the top officials in the SPD, believe we are capable of a great deal,” she told public broadcaster ARD. The party wants to focus on government business, including helping families and young people, improving schools and fighting poverty, she added.

Support for the SPD has slumped to about 15 percent, recent polls show, around the same level as the far-right Alternative for Germany party and a couple of percentage points behind the Greens. Merkel’s CDU/CSU are leading with about 30 percent, making it highly likely the next chancellor will again be a Christian Democrat.

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