German Social Democrats to make campaign manager new leader

FILE - General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party Lars Klingbeil talks during the election campaign in Cologne, Germany, Sept. 24, 2021. SPD party co-leader Walter-Borjans, 69, announced recently that he won't seek re-election when his terms expires in December. On Monday, top party officials proposed that Lars Klingbeil, the party's general secretary since 2017, replace Walter-Borjans as Esken's co-leader. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File) (Martin Meissner, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BERLIN – Germany’s Social Democrats, the country’s main center-left party, is set to make the manager of its successful election campaign one of its leaders. The move comes amid ongoing coalition talks to anoint party candidate Olaf Scholz as the successor to outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Top party officials proposed on Monday that general secretary Lars Klingbeil replace 69 year-old Norbert Walter-Borjans who announced that he won’t be seeking re-election as co-leader when his term expires next month.

The Social Democrats have been led by the left-leaning duo of Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken since 2019 when they defeated a rival team that included Scholz, a pragmatic centrist who was nominated last year to run for chancellor.

A party congress in December will have the final say on the leadership.

Klingbeil, 43, is a more centrist figure who has been credited with helping to keep the often-fractious Social Democrats united in the run-up to the election. As the party official responsible for day-to-day political strategy, he managed a campaign that focused squarely on Scholz, the vice chancellor and finance minister in Merkel's government.

Scholz's relative popularity helped the Social Democrats to a narrow election win over Merkel's center-right Union bloc in September. The party is currently negotiating to form a new governing coalition with the environmentalist Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats.

The parties hope that the new government can take office in the week beginning Dec. 6, though the Greens have raised questions over that timetable in recent days. The Social Democrats' leaders were more optimistic.

Walter-Borjans said reports of friction among three very different parties were “normal,” but that talks were progressing well.

“I think that ... we are not just on the right track and it will end successfully, but we still have every chance to do it in the tight schedule we set,” he told reporters in Berlin.


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