The leader of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), Martin Schulz, announced on Friday that he will not be taking up a ministerial post in the new German government, silencing rumours that he would accept the role as foreign minister.
Schulz, who led the SPD to its worst election result in modern history in September, but secured important cabinet positions for the party in the coalition deal struck with Angela Merkel’s CDU this week, made his decision to not to take a cabinet position so as not to distract from the upcoming SPD members’ vote on entering into government.
“I hereby waive my entry into the government. Debates around me threaten the success of the vote,” Schultz said, adding “We all do politics for the people in this country. That requires my personal ambitions to stand behind the interests of the party.”
Schulz was widely criticised in the SPD for claiming the post as part of the coalition agreement announced on Wednesday after a previous vow he had made that he would never be a minister in a Merkel government.
He was also attacked by Sigmar Gabriel, the former SPD foreign minister, who accused him of breaking a promise to the party if he went back on his word and joined the government as a minister.
“The only thing left, really, is remorse over how disrespectful we’ve become with one another in our dealings and how little someone’s word still counts,” Gabriel said in an interview.
“I am too much from a world in which you do not just look sideways but straight in the eyes and tell the truth. That evidently has fallen out of fashion.”
The coalition still has to get a green light from the 460,000 members of the Social Democratic Party, who will deliver their ballot by postal vote with a result expected by March 4th.