European Interest

Germany’s new SPD chairwoman seeks unity

Flickr/SPD Schleswig-Holstein/CC BY 2.0
“You can reform a party while it's in the government – and I intend to prove it starting tomorrow,” Nahles told delegates.

Meet the first woman to lead Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD). Andrea Nahles won 66.35% of delegate support at a special conference in the western city of Wiesbaden on April 22.

Her job is to remake and re-energise the SPD while ensuring that its cabinet ministers can do their jobs with minimum of interference by fellow Social Democrats, according to Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster.

“You can reform a party while it’s in the government – and I intend to prove it starting tomorrow,” Nahles told delegates. “But the members of the government need our support. There aren’t two parties. We are one party.”

According to DW, the coalition issue alienated major portions of the SPD’s rank and file – in particular the party’s youth division.

By design, Nahles, the labour minister in the previous cabinet, is not a member of Merkel’s fourth government. SPD youth leader Kevin Kühnert endorsed Nahles’ candidacy, and the majority of delegates hope that the new chairwoman can reunite the party.

“In my opinion, there is only one paradigm: solidarity,” Nahles told the crowd. “Solidarity is one of the main things missing in this globalized, neoliberal turbocharged world.”

However, as reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Nahles faces a huge challenge ahead — a survey last week found that 47 percent of respondents doubted that the party veteran is the right person to lead a renewal.

Only one third had confidence that Nahles would be able to strengthen the party, said the poll by Infratest dimap for public broadcaster ARD.

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