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SPD puts social reforms high on agenda

December 7, 2019

Germany's Social Democrats have voted on new concessions they want from their conservative coalition partners. A shake-up in the party leadership threatens to collapse the governing coalition.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka

Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) on Saturday elected members to its executive and approved a raft of social reform demands on the second day of its party conference in Berlin. 

Delegates of the junior coalition partner of Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) on Friday confirmed Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans as the SPD's new leaders. 

Read more:  Most Germans believe Merkel's grand coalition should continue — survey

The two left-wing lawmakers are critics of the SPD's coalition with conservatives, sparking concerns the government may collapse. Established party elders and ministers at the conference strongly backed maintaining the coalition.

On Saturday, the 600 delegates at the conference voted on social issues that they will raise as conditions for participation in the government. They backed a less harsh welfare system, increasing the minimum wage, reforming social care and pensions, and freezing rents in some cities for five years.

CDU head Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and other conservative leaders have rejected renegotiating the coalition agreement.

In a shake-up, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office Niels Annen failed to secure a spot in the executive. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas failed in first round voting, but secured a spot in the second.

Other Cabinet members elected to the executive were Family Minister Franziska Giffey and Environment Minister Svenja Schulze.

Other senior party members winning a spot on the executive included Brandenburg Premier Dietmar Woidke, Lower Saxony State Interior Minister Boris Pistorius and the party's head in the state of Saxony, Martin Dulig.

The SPD has consistently slipped in opinion polls, with the latest Trendbarometer poll for broadcasters RTL/n-tv putting the party at just 11%, behind the conservatives at 28%, Greens at 22% and the far-right Alternative for Germany at 14%.

cw/aw (AFP, dpa)

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