Germany's Social Democrats elect top three party leaders

AP , Saturday 11 Dec 2021

Party delegates from Germany's center-left Social Democrats, the senior partner in the country's new coalition government, elected three top officials on Saturday just days after its candidate, Olaf Scholz, became Germany's ninth post-World War II chancellor.

New Leaders for Social Democrats Party
Newly elected SPD Secretary General Kevin Kuehnert and re-elected SPD co-leader Saskia Esken celebrate on stage during a hybrid party congress of Germany s Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Berlin, Germany, December 11, 2021. AFP

The developments this week have opened a new era for the European Union's most populous nation and largest economy after Angela Merkel's 16-year tenure at its helm.

Scholz' government is composed of his center-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.

Lars Klingbeil, 43, the former Social Democrats' secretary general, was elected co-party leader at the mostly digital party convention with 86.3% of the vote, along with the 60-year-old party leader Saskia Esken, who got 76.7%, the German news agency dpa reported. It is not unusual in Germany to have parties led by co-leaders.

The former head of the party's youth wing, 32-year-old Kevin Kuhnert, was elected with 77.8% as the party's new secretary general, its third position.

Esken was first elected as party leader two years ago when she led together with Norbert Walter-Borjans, who did not run again this time.

At Saturday's convention, Klingbeil, told the roughly 600 delegates ``we've unleashed this country after 16 years, and we've unleashed it from the mustiness of the conservatives,'' and recalled the party's long polling slump.

``We were written off, we were pitied,'' he said. ``But we never gave up, never, at any time.''

Klingbeil added that the victory in Germany's federal election was a great opportunity to shape a ``social democratic decade.''

His co-leader Esken told the delegates ``we will change this country, we will strengthen it, and we will make it more just.''

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