Germany’s Social Democratic Party has marked its 150 year anniversary in Leipzig. Four months ahead of federal elections, the party has paid tribute to its rich past.
Festivities are underway in Leipzig where about 1,600 guests from 80 countries have gathered to celebrate the Social Democratic Party's (SPD) 150 year anniversary.
In an opening speech, Germany's President Joachim Gauck lauded the SPD as a driving force in the enforcement of freedom, justice and solidarity. He said "this is a day of celebration, not only for Germany's oldest party, but also for the European struggle for freedom and democracy."
SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel, who also addressed the crowd, said, "The SPD must become more of a social movement again." Earlier, Gabriel described the celebration as "the largest international political event in Germany this year."
French Socialist President Francois Hollande is set to give the keynote address. Former SPD chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder were also in attendance.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who attended the event, praised the historical role of the SPD in the local daily the Leipziger Volkszeitung, as "a valiant and unyielding voice of democracy in Germany.”
"For these services, which cannot be valued highly enough, the SPD deserves my respect and appreciation," wrote Merkel, who leads the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
The latest polls have given Merkel's conservatives a wide lead ahead of the Social Democrats, whose chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück has suffered through a series of campaign missteps ahead of September's federal election.
Before the event, Steinbrück praised the historical merits of his party on RBB-Info radio. "Freedom, solidarity and justice - this is the set of values that must be translated into modernity, in the future," he said.
The establishment of the General German Workers' Association, SPD's predecessor, on May 23, 1863 in Leipzig by Ferdinand Lassalle is regarded as the birth of German social democracy.
hc/jr (AFP, dpa)