Getty / Stringer Germany’s largest parties have voted out leading contenders for their party chairs. Bavarian premier Markus Soeder and Hamburg head Bernd Riexinger were favored by some internal supporters to lead the two-party coalition, but neither one received enough votes, so the role of chairmanship will now go to the party’s second in command.
Ahead of a test on whether the Greens can convert voters into voters for the opposition Social Democrats — which has been looking for a new vehicle since the national election — the Greens chose deputy leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt on Wednesday evening, just two days after the SPD plucked Martin Schulz from his running mate Angela Merkel’s backyard.
The Greens’ title of consensus builder is currently held by Horst Seehofer, the country’s most strident hawk and now Bavarian premier. The previous leader, Claudia Roth, resigned last year to take on the role of minister in Germany’s Economy Ministry.
During his two-year tenure, Ms. Roth was hailed for helping the Greens break a post-war logjam by forging a coalition with the left-leaning SPD to lead in government. There are concerns that the party’s new leadership may step away from the coalition but that Ms. Göring-Eckardt said after the results were tallied that the Greens would remain part of it.
Mr. Schulz won more votes than his closest competitor, Ms. Göring-Eckardt, but by a narrower margin than Ms. Roth, who maintained her commanding lead over her former party rival Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice chancellor and foreign minister.
The Greens’ decision to replace Ms. Roth, who had steadily risen through the ranks of the party since joining in 1998, in favor of someone who could unite the party’s disparate alliances with environmental, youth and labor parties was seen as likely to increase support for the party in the European Parliament.
The SPD announced in December that it would vote on whether to join a Greens-led coalition after the national election, which it lost to Mrs. Merkel’s conservative party. The vote is scheduled for next Monday.
In another twist, after it came to light that Mr. Schulz had been receiving payments from the German Greens during his time as chancellor candidate, he was reneged on his promise to end the arrangement immediately upon becoming party chairman.
The Greens’ temporary power sharing agreement with the SPD was set to expire on Thursday at midnight.
The SPD’s decision to dump Mr. Schulz amid questions about his leadership ability and his relationship with party members has created a dilemma for Chancellor Merkel, who owes her own fourth-term victory to the SPD’s support. Some observers believe Mr. Schulz’s departure could tilt support in favor of the FDP, one of the biggest defectors from the center-left coalition.