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German Social Democrats try to quell leadership doubts

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10:51 CET+01:00
Germany's Social Democrats continued to squabble over the direction of their party on Monday. Despite calls to rally behind embattled party chairman Kurt Beck, centrist SPD members urged him to forgo a bid to become chancellor in 2009.

SPD Secretary General Hubertus Heil rejected speculation that Beck might resign at a Social Democratic Party presidium meeting in Berlin on Monday. “We have clear leadership with Kurt Beck at the top,” he told German public broadcaster ZDF, adding that there was no rush to pick the party's candidate for chancellor for the 2009 general election. “There's absolutely no need to have that debate right now.”

At the same time, however, Heil admitted the SPD had been put in “not an easy situation” following the inconclusive state election in Hesse in January. Beck has come under immense criticism in recent weeks for allowing Hesse SPD leader Andrea Ypsilanti to try to cobble together a minority government with the backing of the hard-line socialist Left Party.

Beck will try to reassert his authority at the party presidium meeting on Monday after being sidelined with the flu for two weeks. But just how difficult that might be was made apparent by the renewed call from the SPD's centrist wing for Beck to renounce his intention to become the Social Democratic candidate for chancellor in 2009.

Gerd Andres, head of the SPD's centrist Seeheimer bloc, told the Monday edition of the daily Hannoverschen Allgemeinen Zeitung that Beck must take personal responsibility for the current crisis surrounding the party. “In my opinion his candidacy for chancellor is no longer an issue since he can't manage to shake off the crisis of credibility,” Andres told the paper.

The issue of how to deal with the Left Party's recent encroachment into western German state parliaments has wracked the SPD in recent weeks. After Social Democratic chairman Beck told state SPD party organizations they could forge their own alliances with the Left Party, his leadership has come under fire from more centrist SPD members.

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