BERLIN (Reuters) – German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz will run for the leadership of his Social Democrats, a magazine reported on Friday, joining a race to revive the party’s sinking popularity since it entered a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.
A successful bid by Scholz to lead the Social Democrats (SPD) would bring more stability to Merkel’s shaky “Grand Coalition”, which the SPD joined reluctantly last year after a 2017 election.
“I’m willing to run if you want me to,” Der Spiegel magazine cited Scholz as telling the SPD’s three interim leaders in a phone call. It said none of them opposed his offer. The Finance Ministry declined to comment on the report.
Scholz is the most high-profile candidate to join the race and a recent poll found he was the second-most favourite politician among Germans to become the next chancellor.
The SPD has seen support almost halve to around 12% since joining Merkel’s conservatives in government ,and leftists in the SPD want their party to quit the alliance and rebuild in opposition.
Scholz has rejected such calls, saying his party was committed to serve the full legislative term until 2021.
Merkel has said she will not run for a fifth term and her protegee Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is expected to lead the conservatives in the next election.
The SPD in June appointed three caretakers to run the party when leader Andrea Nahles resigned after the party bled support in May’s elections for the European Parliament.
The SPD’s 400,000 members are expected to vote for a new leader in October. The deadline to join the leadership race is Sept. 1.
(Reporting by Joseph Nasr and Michelle Martin; Editing by Mark Heinrich)