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Germany's Chancellor candidate Gabriel steps down

Germany's Chancellor candidate Gabriel steps downThe German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday withdrew his candidacy as the Social Democratic challenger to Angela Merkel. He will likely be replaced by Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, who may be nominated on Sunday.

Sigmar Gabriel, the pugnacious but unpopular head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, said on Tuesday he will not run as his party’s chancellor candidate against Angela Merkel in national elections this fall.

Mr. Gabriel’s announcement, which will shake up the German race, was made a sister publication of Handelsblatt Global.

The 57-year-old Gabriel told to weekly Die Zeit he will relinquish his post as vice chancellor and head of the SPD, Germany’s second-largest party and the junior partner in Merkel’s coalition.

He plans to take on the job of German foreign minister, which will become vacant if its current holder, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, becomes president.

Gabriel’s surprise departure clears the way for Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament who recently returned to Germany to resume a domestic political career, to take on Merkel.

A majority of SPD voters in a recent survey seemed to think Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament who built a reputation as a verbose but effective partisan leader in Brussels, had a better chance of beating Merkel this fall.

Gabriel’s decision to step down as his party’s chancellor candidate in this September’s election came after recent polls showed his party trailing Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party.
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