German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel is set to win his party's nomination for the general election, according to a media report. This would pit him against three-term Chancellor Angela Merkel.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is set to run against incumbent chancellor, Angela Merkel, for the chancellorship later this year, local media reported on Tuesday.
According to the daily "Bild" newspaper, the head of the Social Democrats (SPD) has been chosen to run against his grand coalition partner after closed talks with party leaders.
"Bild" reported that former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had pushed for the move. On Twitter, however, the SPD dismissed the claims as "speculation," while welcoming all the "media interest."
Gabriel himself made no comment on the reports, but took to Twitter meanwhile to wish a happy birthday to Peer Steinbrück - former finance minister and the last SPD politician to challenge, and to lose to Merkel in 2013.
Official candidate by late January
The center-left party is scheduled to officially choose a candidate at its convention on January 29.
It has been widely assumed that the Social Democrats will back Gabriel, 57, since earlier media reports claimed that departing European Parliament leader Martin Schulz had no plans to seek the top job.
Gabriel has been Germany's deputy leader since 2013, after that year's federal election left Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) without either a majority or their preferred coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP).
In 2015, Gabriel won only 74 percent support in a confidence vote, the lowest for a SPD leader in 20 years.
But without any real rivals, the vice chancellor has the unenviable task of taking on a known quantity in Merkel, even if the refugee crisis has somewhat dampened her popularity.
es/cmk (AFP, dpa)