Speaking for the first time since stepping down, Beck said unnamed members of the SPD had purposely leaked misleading information to the media on Saturday that hobbled his ability act. The leaks hinted at the return of former SPD leader Franz Müntefering and that the party might make German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier the party’s candidate for chancellor in next year’s general election.
In an address where he occasionally appeared on the verge of tears, Beck said he felt the “breach of trust” made it “impossible to carry out my duties in a meaningful way.”
Beck said he would now focus on his role as premier of the southwestern state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Steinmeier, the freshly nominated Social Democratic candidate for chancellor, denied earlier on Tuesday that there had been a putsch against Beck. Speaking to public broadcaster ZDF, Steinmeier said he was not responsible for Beck’s sudden decision to resign as head of the Social Democratic Party on Sunday.
“You can be sure that I had absolutely no role in the decisions that were made over the weekend,” he said, adding that no one in the SPD leadership ranks had wanted Beck to step down.
While Steinmeier will attempt to become chancellor, the SPD leadership decided to nominate former party boss Müntefering to take over for Beck. The duo’s ascent has annoyed SPD left-wingers, who see both as likely to move the party toward the political centre.
Steinmeier and Müntefering are both stalwart defenders of the unpopular economic and welfare reforms known as “Agenda 2010,” which were implemented by former Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
Andrea Nahles, deputy party leader and voice for the left-wing, accused some Social Democrats of not being loyal to the embattled Beck, who had been unable to raise the party’s flagging fortunes during his short tenure as SPD leader.
“If we want to be successful that will have to change,” she told the daily newspaper Rhein Zeitung.