• Germany's news in English

SPD looks to regroup as Müntefering bows out

DDP/The Local · 13 Nov 2009, 16:20

Published: 13 Nov 2009 16:20 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Explaining the SPD’s dismal election performance in September, its worst ever performance with just 23 percent of the vote, Müntefering blamed a failure to communicate the party’s policies.

But he warned the Social Democrats must not let themselves retreat into “the valley of tears,” urging the party instead to “engage and attack” Chancellor Merkel's new centre-right coalition of conservative Christian Democrats and pro-business Free Democrats.

“We are fit and ready for battle,” he told about 500 delegates, in his last speech as chairman.

Seven weeks after the election debacle, the three-day party conference will formally elect the SPD's new leadership. A new generation of Social Democrats will need to find a new direction for Germany's oldest democratic party and address divisions over unpopular welfare cuts and a rise in the retirement age from 65 to 67 made while the SPD was in power over the past 11 years.

Former Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel is running unopposed to succeed Müntefering as party chairman, while Andrea Nahles will become the new general secretary.

The pair have a tense but working relationship; Nahles, who is prominent on the left wing of the party, has been fiercely critical of the Agenda 2010 welfare cuts that Müntefering helped devise while Gerhard Schröder was chancellor.

Müntefering said the election result had been “bitter” but was not end of the party.

“We were not the enemy for the voters, but we were not interesting enough. For too many people, we represented yesterday and were out of fashion.”

The SPD “had itself to blame” for the defeat but was at the same time a victim of the circumstances, he said.

He added that the SPD would “take seriously” the job of opposition. And he stressed, “We’ll be back.”

On a personal level, he said some people in the party had regarded him as authoritarian – a fact he had taken in good humour. He received a three minute standing ovation.

New parliamentary leader and former candidate for chancellor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Müntefering had always “torn himself apart” for the party and “always got into the harness, as we needed him.”

Story continues below…

Nahles, meanwhile, announced that generational change had come. If the SPD wanted to find its former strength, “then it cannot stay the same as it is,” she said.

But a decision about a change in the retirement age needed further discussion, she said. It is due to be raised from 65 to 67 in stages between 2012 and 2029.

Many on the left of the party want it returned to 65, but Nahles said a “return to 65 does not make us credible.”

Meanwhile, the left wing of the party used the conference to attack Müntefering and the generally conservative leadership of the party, blaming it for the election drubbing.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd