Andrea Nahles is the new leader of the German Social Democrat Party. Her election on Sunday, also means the election of the first female leader in the party’s 155-year history. She won the support of 66 per cent of the delegates during the party’s conference in Wiesbaden.
Forecasts saw that she would get more support, given the fact that she secured the full support of the SPD leadership and much of the party machine. To put this election result in context, Martin Schulz, her predecessor as party chief, managed to win the backing of 100 per cent of delegates last year. The result is also the second-worst for an SPD party leader in the postwar era, with some members unhappy about the renewed Merkel tie-up that Nahles pushed for likely having voted for her opponent – Simone Lange, the 41-year-old mayor of the northern city of Flensburg.
It is yet to be seen whether Nahles, with her leftist roots, will seek to shift the party leftwards with an eye to a potential future coalition with the Greens and far-left Linke, or fight Merkel by sticking to the centre ground – as the party largely did during the last legislative period.
She must heal deep divisions within the SPD which remain over its decision to join once again a coalition with Merkel. Cracks have also emerged in the SPD in recent weeks over its Russia policy and welfare reform, more than a decade after the party spearheaded Germany’s liberalisation of the labor market.