Sigmar Gabriel

In Surprise, SPD Chancellor Candidate Gabriel Steps Down

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Sigmar Gabriel’s decision clears the field for Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, to become the SPD candidate to challenge incumbent Angela Merkel in national elections this fall.

  • Facts


    • Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday surprised political observers in Germany by withdrawing as the Social Democratic Party’s challenger to Angela Merkel this fall. He also resigned after more than seven years as SPD party chairman.
    • Mr. Gabriel, a centrist, cited his own growing popularity among the SPD’s left wing as a reason for stepping down. He said he will also become a father again in March, and cited “personal” reasons for his decision.
    • Mr. Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, has spent almost all of his political career in Brussels, and recently returned to Germany in November. He once got into a bitter exchange with then-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on the floor of the European Parliament, which prompted Mr. Berlusconi to make a reference to Nazi Germany.
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Industriekongress in Düsseldorf
Sigmar Gabriel, German vice-chancellor and political heavyweight of the Social Democratic Party will not be running for chancellor. Source: Federico Gambarini / DPA

Sigmar Gabriel, the pugnacious but unpopular head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, said Tuesday he will not run as his party’s chancellor candidate against Angela Merkel in national elections this fall.

Mr. Gabriel’s announcement, which will shake up the German race, was made to weekly Die Zeit, a sister publication of Handelsblatt Global.

The 57-year-old Gabriel said he will relinquish his post as vice chancellor and head of the SPD, Germany’s second-largest party and the junior partner in Ms. Merkel’s coalition.

He plans to take on the job of German foreign minister, which will become vacant after its current holder, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, becomes president.

Mr. Gabriel’s surprise departure clears the way for Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament who recently returned to Germany to resume a domestic political career, to take on Ms. Merkel.

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