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Germany

SPD In-Fighting Threatens Coalition Talks

As coalition talks continue in Germany on Monday, a leadership struggle is raging within the ranks of the Social Democrats. At issue is who should don the cap of SPD secretary general.

The battle is between SPD leader, Franz Müntefering's trusted aid and favorite candidate, Kajo Wasserhövel and the leftist Andrea Nahles. On Sunday, in a contest, which is being viewed as his first test of authority, Müntefering failed to push through his candidate for the pivotal post of secretary general.

The SPD's inner leadership circle didn't toe Müntefering's line, refusing to endorse Wasserhövel as the only candidate. Müntefering grudgingly admitted that the decision had to be postponed until Monday afternoon because some presidium members apparently favored a different candidate.

"I've been trying to make it clear that Kajo Wasserhövel would be the best choice for the post of secretary general, but unfortunately, others view this differently," Müntefering said.

Leftist favorite

The SPD leftwing is fielding Andrea Nahles, the 35-year-old former leader of the party's youth organization, who won herself a reputation for her outspoken criticism of outgoing Chancellor Schröder's reformist political course.

Andrea Nahles

Andrea Nahles, SPD

Together with a number of other left-wingers, she drummed up inner-party support for more social policies, creating a movement which is said to have forced Schröder into calling early elections to prevent an open revolt in the SPD.

Nahles enjoys powerful backing from cabinet ministers and regional party leaders, including that of Wolfgang Jüttner, who leads the SPD in the state of Lower Saxony.

"The issue at stake now is how the party positions itself as it is being forced into a grand coalition government with its strongest political rival," he said. "Andrea Nahles is better suited to give the party some breathing space and to move it forward in accordance with its own platform."

Solutio n scheduled for Mo n day

Kajo Wasserhövel, however, has been Franz Müntefering right-hand man for many years. The 43-year-old has received much praise for his summer election campaign which led to Schröder giving the Conservatives a good run for their money. Ludwig Stiegler, deputy parliamentary leader of the SPD, said he believes Müntefering's candidate will ultimately get the job.

Franz Müntefering Wahlprogramm der SPD

SPD Party Chariman, Franz Muentefering

"Franz Müntefering will get the upper hand," he said. "It's abundantly clear that any party leader needs full trust in his general secretary. I cannot imagine that an SPD party conference in November will first endorse Müntefering as party leader and then reject his nomination for the post of secretary general."

The SPD leadership will make a new attempt on Monday to resolve the untimely power struggle. Analysts are pointing out that a failure by Müntefering to push his candidate through may substantially weaken the SPD in the crucial phase of coalition talks with the Christian Democrats.

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