Germany: Schulz gives up Foreign Ministry portfolio

Merkel has left herself with precious little room for manouvre

The SPD, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union reached the coalition deal on Wednesday, which will possibly end the new government vacuum since the September 24 federal election, the longest period ever since 1949.

Senior SPD members also pressured their leader into dropping his demand to be the foreign minister as part of the grand coalition - or GroKro.

The perception among SPD activists that Schulz had constructed a life raft from the wreckage of an election disaster led many analysts to predict that the party's rank and file membership would not authorise the coalition deal sealed just two days ago.

"Angela Merkel has succeeded, she will remain chancellor if the SPD members vote for the coalition deal". The results from that are due in early March, and that vote is now looking too close to call either way.

If a deal emerges, it won't bring an immediate end to the political limbo following Germany's September 24 election.

Prospective German Foreign Minister Martin Schulz has announced that he will not take up a ministerial post in the next 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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Schulz's choice to step aside "deserves the highest respect and recognition", said Andrea Nahles, his likely successor as party chair.

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

It's been over four months since its latest elections, and Germany finally has a government again.

German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel arrives for the coalition negotiations at CDU headquarters on Tuesday.

For the SPD, the backbiting went public when Gabriel, Germany's acting foreign minister, attacked the leadership for planning to remove him from his post - and implying that he'd been promised that he could continue as the country's top diplomat.

The decision by Mr Schulz was made as he came under intense pressure from his Social Democratic Party (SPD) to give up the role.

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