Members of centre-left SPD have confirmed Martin Schulz as the party’s new leader and candidate to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany’s federal election in September.
Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, was unanimously chosen by delegates at the party’s congress in Berlin on Sunday.
“I want to be the next chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he told party members after securing an unprecedented endorsement with 100-per cent of party delegates’ votes.
“SPD is back. We are back,” he said.
The Social Democrat said he wanted the SPD to become “the strongest political force” to make Germany “better and fairer, and give the people the respect they deserve”.
Schulz, 61, took over from Sigmar Gabriel as SPD leader after becoming the party’s candidate in January.
Gabriel, the vice-chancellor in the grand coalition government with Angela Merkel’s CDU, had been trailing in opinion polls.
But a survey published over the weekend showed that the SPD is now closely behind Merkel’s CDU, at 32 per cent against 33 percent.
Schulz, whose slogan is “time for justice,” said he wanted to improve the education system, increase public investment in schools and nurseries, and reduce the “intolerable pay gap” between the eastern and western parts of Germany.
Schulz also vowed, if elected, to be a staunch defender of democratic values.
‘‘We do not need to go to the USA to see the attempt to turn back the clock of freedom. Look at Turkey, look at Hungary, look at Poland! Every day they become bolder against our democracy. You have in the SPD the most decisive enemy that is possible in this country,” he declared.