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Ex-European Parliament head to run against Merkel in Germany’s federal poll

Germany’s center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) has nominated Martin Schulz as its candidate to compete against conservative Angela Merkel for the post of chancellor in this year’s federal election.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel announced on Tuesday at a press conference at the party headquarters in Berlin that the SPD committee had unanimously made the decision.

“Martin Schulz will be the SPD chancellor candidate for the 2017 federal elections. That is our unanimous party committee decision,” said Gabriel.

Gabriel said Schulz “will also be the party chairman,” adding that the SPD is expected to confirm both his candidacy as well as his party leadership at a meeting on Sunday.

Following the announcement, Schulz said “it is an extraordinary honor that I, with pride and also with a natural humbleness, accept it and I will try and make the best out of it for our country.”

This photo taken on May 29, 2016 shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) speaking with ex-President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz during a function at the Douaumont Ossuary in northeastern France. (Via AFP)

Schulz also slammed Merkel austerity policies, which he said “have no doubt contributed to the deep crises in the EU since 2008, to the isolation of a dominant German government.”

Schulz, 61, a former president of the European Parliament, will run against Chancellor Merkel, 62, from the rival Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who will be running for a fourth term in the federal election slated for September 24.

The SPD and the CDU are the two main parties in the German parliament, known as the Bundestag.

The SPD’s decision comes as opinion polls indicate Schulz is far more popular than Gabriel; however, other surveys suggest he still faces an extremely tough race against Merkel.

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