German Social Democrats elect Andrea Nahles as 1st female leader
Wiesbaden (Germany): Germany's centre-left Social Democrats on Sunday elected Andrea Nahles, a combative and outspoken former labour minister, as the first woman leader of the 155-year-old party. Known for her lectern-thumping speeches and occasional outbursts of child-like humour, the 47-year-old single mother joins Chancellor Angela Merkel at the top of German politics –and as the woman who may one day seek her job.
"We're breaking though the glass ceiling in the SPD," said Nahles at the delegates' meeting in the city of Wiesbaden. "And the ceiling will stay open." Well-connected within her party, Nahles, a former leader of its Jusos youth wing, won 66 per cent of the vote, beating Simone Lange, 41, an ex-policewoman and mayor of the city of Flensburg. The less than stellar result against an outsider reflected lingering resentment within the party against the decision, strongly promoted by Nahles, to once more govern as junior partners to Merkel's conservatives.
Electing a female leader is "a sign of progress that was long overdue," said the SPD's outgoing interim leader, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who called it "a historic moment".
In the lead-up to the vote, well-wishers had ironically expressed hope that Nahles would do worse than her predecessor Martin Schulz.
A repeat of his 100-percent party backing last year amid a euphoric "Schulz hype" would be seen as a bad omen given that in the end, he scored just 20.5 percent in the September 2017 general election, the party's worst post-war result.
While Schulz's roller-coaster ride in German politics has shuddered to a halt, the task of revitalising the dispirited SPD now falls to Nahles.
A survey last week by Infratest dimap found that 47 percent of respondents doubted that the party veteran is the right person to lead a "renewal", while just one third expressed confidence. The challenge for her labour party now will be to at once govern responsibly with Merkel, and convince its dwindling band of working-class voters that it is still their champion.
Nahles vowed that the SPD will fight for social justice and welfare, declaring that "solidarity is what is most lacking in the globalised, neo-liberal, turbo-digitalised world".