Struck backs Beck as next SPD chancellor

SPD parliamentary group leader Peter Struck has given his backing to embattled Social Democratic chairman Kurt Beck as the party's 2009 candidate for chancellor amid ongoing concerns of his leadership.

In the debate over possible cooperation between the hard-line socialist Left Party and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Struck gave his unconditional support to SPD chairman Kurt Beck as the party’s next candidate for chancellor.

Beck, who has apparently had the flu for the last two weeks, may be under the weather, Struck said, but he’s not out of the game. “Anything else that people believe is just a fantasy from people who want to damage the SPD and its leaders,” he told the Tuesday edition of tabloid daily Bild. “Kurt Beck is, and remains, the SPD party chairman, without a doubt.” Furthermore, Struck added, Beck is the first choice for chancellor in the 2009 general election.

Struck’s statement comes amid growing dissatisfaction against his Beck’s leadership. Top members of the SPD are reportedly planning to keep Beck from becoming the party’s candidate for chancellor. Concerned over the direction Beck has been taking the party, several high-ranking SPD members – including German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück and former party bosses Matthias Platzeck and Franz Müntefering – have reportedly been plotting to sideline him in the next general election in favour of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, according to weekly news magazine Der Spiegel over the weekend.

The reform-oriented wing of the SPD has been angered by Beck’s willingness to consider working together with the socialist Left Party, which has its roots in the East German communist party. The Left Party has begun making inroads in western Germany, complicating the Social Democrats’ efforts to challenge the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) in both state and federal elections.

As to whether Beck made mistakes in the current debate over whether the SPD and the ex-communist Left party could form coalitions at the state level of government, Struck to told Bild, “Beck admitted that the discussion wasn’t ideal. That was honorable. But with that, the discussion is over.”