Speaking to public broadcaster ARD on Monday night, Gabriel said he would not rule out cooperating with The Left – a collection of former East German communists and disgruntled left-wing Social Democrats – if it helped the battered SPD back to power.
“I don't have anything against considering a coalition with them at the federal level in 2013, but the policies have to match up,” said Gabriel, explaining he would not pursue a left-wing alliance at any price. “Our top priority is strengthening the SPD.”
Gabriel was nominated to become the next SPD chairman on Monday by the party's leadership council. The 50-year-old is now expected to replace the outgoing boss Franz Müntefering at a national party conference in Dresden in November.
The feisty former environment minister will have the unenviable task of rebuilding the party after the Social Democrats suffered their worst post-war election result on September 27.
Gabriel said the SPD would have to use their time in opposition to examine the party's 11 years in power with a critical eye towards contentious policies – such as unpopular welfare reforms – that have pushed many of its supporters towards The Left in recent years.
But he predicted the leftists also faced an internal debate among “those that only want to remain in the opposition and those that also want to change things politically.”