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SPD leaders re-elected at party convention, but with lower approval rates.

Germany’s Social Democrats have re-elected all of the members of the party’s leadership team who sought re-election. However, support for certain key players was down, a sign of some discontent among the delegates.

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SPD delegates send clear message to leadership

Several of the Social Democrat (SPD) leaders who were up for re-election at the party's convention in Leipzig on Friday scored significantly worse than they did when they were voted in two years ago.

Observers have interpreted this as a signal that the SPD's rank and file are uneasy about the direction the party is going in, and that members of its leadership team may have difficulty convincing a majority of them to support acoalition agreementwith Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU). Assuming SPD negotiators are able to reach an agreement to form a coalition with the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), this is to be put to a vote by the party's membership next month. The SPD has pledged that it would only enter a so-called grand coalition with the conservatives, if the general membership approves the coalition deal.

Setback for Nahles

The highest-profile member of the SPD's executive to suffer a setback in Friday's voting was the party's most powerful woman, Andrea Nahles (pictured above). The SPD's general secretary was re-elected to the post with 67.2 percent of the votes cast, compared to 73.2 percent in 2011.

The party's treasurer chastised the delegates for the result.

"Even if it hurts my own result, I don't think you should have treated Andrea like that," Barbara Hendricks said. Hendricks was subsequently re-elected to her post with nine percent less support than two years ago, with 79.5 percent of the votes.

Two of the deputies to the chairman, Sigmar Gabriel, who was re-elected on Thursday, also lost support compared to their 2011 results.

Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz, who is seen as one of the leading supporters of entering a grand coalition, was down 17 percent from two years ago, receiving 67.3 percent approval.

The premier of Germany's most populous state, Hanelore Kraft of North Rhine-Westphalia, lost 12 percentage points but still won the approval of 85.6 percent of the delegates. Kraft had initially expressed skepticism about entering a new government with the CDU/CSU.

The other two deputies up for re-election, Aydan Özoguz and Manuela Schwesig received 79.9 and 80.1 percent respectively.

The candidate for the deputy position that was vacated by Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, earned the highest approval, taking 88.9 percent of the vote. Schäfer-Gümbel, who is involved in coalition negotiations in the central state of Hesse, is credited by many with largely rebuilding the party's support there, since taking over as regional leader in 2009.

The SPD's convention in Leipzig runs through Saturday.

pfd/dr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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