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SPD Leader Resigns After Five Months in Office

DW staff (kj)April 10, 2006

Having served as Social Democratic Party chairman for just five months, Matthias Platzeck will resign from his post. He said health concerns, including a recent case of acute hearing loss, were behind the decision.

Matthias Platzeck was forced to make the "toughest decision" of his lifeImage: AP

Brandenburg Premier Matthias Platzeck announced on Monday that he will be giving up his position as chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), citing health reasons.

"In the past days I had to come to the toughest decision in my life, which was to follow my doctors' urgent advice to step down from my position as the leader of the Social Democratic Party in Germany," Platzeck said in a news conference.

He said Kurt Beck, the popular state premier of Rhineland-Palatinate, would be proposed as his replacement and both men pledged to ensure the smooth continuation of the SPD''s "grand coalition" with Merkel's conservatives.

"I am absolutely for continuity in our work in the grand coalition," Beck said, adding that Merkel had been informed of the decision in advance.

Months of poor health

Platzeck was admitted to hospital on March 29 with a case of acute hearing loss. Medical experts say that the condition can be a reaction to stress, often diagnosed in politicians and managers. Prior to this, Platzeck was forced to take time off for a week while recuperating from influenza.

On Monday, Platzeck also said that he had suffered recently from a circulatory disorder as well as a nervous breakdown.

The 52-year-old was elected chairman of the SPD at the party's federal convention in November with 99.4 percent of the votes -- one of the best election results in the party's history. His election came after his predecessor, Franz Müntefering, resigned prior to the convention in the wake of a battle over his secretary-general candidate.

Landtagswahl Rheinland-Pfalz - Der rheinland-pfaelzische Ministerpraesident Kurt Beck hebt am Sonntag, 26. Maerz 2006 vor dem Landtag in Mainz den Daumen
Thumbs up for state election results: Kurt BeckImage: AP

In state elections on March 26th, Kurt Beck was reaffirmed as premier of Rhineland-Palatinate. The Social Democratic Party has an absolute majority in the state. At the federal party convention in November, Beck was elected the SPD's first vice chairman with 99.2 percent of the votes.

Although the news of Platzeck's resignation came as a surprise, it is not expected to create any major problems for the government.