Germany's Social Democrats elect two new leaders

Author thumbnail
AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Germany's Social Democrats elect two new leaders
Saskia Esken, right, with her fellow SPD co-leader Lars Klingbeil. Esken is one of the German politicians most vocally advocating for a four-day work week in Germany, with workers taking home the same salary. (Photo by HANNIBAL HANSCHKE / POOL / AFP)

Germany's governing Social Democrats on Saturday elected a centrist and a left-wing figurehead as its two new leaders, days after their election candidate Olaf Scholz was sworn in as chancellor.


The SPD returned to government following their victory in September's election, forming an unprecedented three-party coalition with the Greens and business-friendly Free Democrats after ex-chancellor Angela Merkel's 16-year tenure ended.

SPD activists voted for Lars Klingbeil, a centrist close to Scholz, and Saskia Esken, who has served as the party's co-president for two years and represents its left wing.

Klingbeil, who has been the party's secretary-general since 2017, received 86.3 percent of votes and Esken 76.7 percent in a mostly virtual SPD congress in Berlin, with numbers limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.


The SPD's return to power was initially deemed unlikely, but it emerged from this year's election with the most votes and seats in Germany's federal parliament.

Half of the SPD's MPs are new to parliament and a quarter are younger than 35, symbolising the party's renewal after years in the wilderness.

"A victory in the legislative elections isn't enough for me. We must continue on this path," Klingbeil, 43, told party delegates.

"I want to lead the SPD towards a new strength, a new pride," added Esken, 60.

Klingbeil, who replaces outgoing leader Norbert Walter-Borjans, has served as the SPD's general secretary for four years and is viewed as a key actor in the SPD's electoral revival.

He is credited with uniting the SPD's different factions behind Scholz for the election and soothing internal divisions.

Kevin Kuehnert, a longtime rival to Scholz and member of the SPD's left wing, is due to become the party's next general secretary.

The SPD faces tests in four regional elections next year.






Comments (1)

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Anonymous 2021/12/11 22:19
What’s the significance of the matching warts?

See Also