German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of
the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) addresses a news conference after
a party leaders meeting at the resort hotel Schwielowsee in Werder, south
of Berlin September 7, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
BERLIN, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- Germany's Social
Democratic Party ( SPD), a major party of the country and a junior partner
within Chancellor Angela Merkel's grand coalition government, reshuffled its
leadership at a leaders' meeting near Berlin on Sunday, aiming to achieve more
at the federal election next year.
The party nominated Foreign Minister Frank-Walter
Steinmeier as the candidate to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel for the
chancellorship in next year's election, the SPD announced after the meeting,
held at Werder, south-west of Berlin on Sunday.
Kurt Beck, a long-serving premier of
Rhineland-Palatinate who led the SPD since 2006, resigned as chairman at the
meeting, and Steinmeier is to serve as interim chairman of the party until the
SPD formally votes on the issue at an extraordinary general meeting, to be held
in the weeks ahead.
Former SPD chairman Franz Muentefering has revealed
his intention to come back, and he is widely considered as the top candidate for
the party's new chairman.
Speaking to the press conference, Steinmeier spoke
highly of the reshuffle of the SPD, saying that his party was better equipped
than many believed and was ready for the election campaign.
"We do not want anyone to be marginalized in our
society," Steinmeier said, signaling the party's ambition in next year's
Steinmeier has long enjoyed more popularity than Beck
at the polls, so there is no surprise among local media that Beck yielded to
Steinmeier as the party's candidate for chancellorship.
Muentefering, aged 68, resigned as deputy chancellor
last year to take care of his ailing wife.
Following his wife's death, Muentefering, who was SPD
chairman in 2004-2005, signaled his intention to come back earlier this year.
Germany's federal election will be held on Sept. 27,
2009, and Chancellor Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc and Steinmeier's SPD are
traditionally two major rivals at the election.
The latest polls show that the SPD gets around 25
percent support among the general public while Merkel's conservative Christian
CDU/ CSU bloc wins 35 percent support.
Earlier on Saturday when the news of the SPD's
possible reshuffle was known, Merkel lashed out at the SPD, dubbing the party
Merkel also extended her hope that the CDU/CSU will
be able to form a coalition with the minority liberal party FDP following next