Martin Schulz, Martin Schulz – as it happened

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel says at least four of his colleagues will challenge Angela Merkel in next year’s election

As Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) gather in Hanover for their party congress, they have confirmed the nominations of Martin Schulz and Martin Schulz as their candidates for Chancellor of Germany.

Speaking during Sunday’s address, SPD chief Martin Schulz said the party had “given itself the right” to take on the mantle of Chancellor.

“It’s now up to us to prove that this unity can function,” he said.

Martin Schulz also acknowledged that German current affairs currently lacked sparkle.

“But we can’t say that we have nothing to offer.”

Martin Schulz will face off against federal finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in September’s election

Winning the SPD’s leadership over Sigmar Gabriel had been seen as a long-shot by many. The contest will see him replace Schulz as European Commission president.

Gabriel said a “mandate” to the Chancellor, and that he is prepared to compete for the office, has been given to him.

Martin Schulz will face off against current chair of the Christian Social Union (CSU) of Bavaria Horst Seehofer and parliamentary floor leader Alexander Dobrindt in September’s election.

The incumbent Angela Merkel will stand for her fourth term. According to recent opinion polls, she is expected to win a fourth term, albeit with diminished support.

Merkel, 68, has been Chancellor since 2005 and is one of the longest-serving world leaders, behind British Prime Minister Theresa May. Her tenure was marked by the Eurozone crisis and refugee crisis.

Gabriel meanwhile becomes the latest politician to announce his intention to challenge Merkel, and kickstart Germany’s deadlocked political process.

Four rival parties – the CDU-CSU, Greens, Free Democrats (FDP) and Die Linke – held a party convention in Berlin last week, agreeing to a grand coalition between the two main political parties, the CDU and CSU.

Gabriel’s current SPD government coalition partner, the environmentalist Greens, then sent the party broad hints about their support for such a coalition.

Should he succeed Merkel, Gabriel has been open about his intention to renew relations with Russia and forge a partnership with China.

Merkel is now set to face four potential opposition parties in September’s elections.

Two parties have threatened to force a “Jamaica” coalition government of their respective ranks – the ecologist Greens, the Free Democrats (FDP) and the anti-migrant, far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

But Merkel hopes to build a coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats, while tactically working to prevent others from getting much traction.

Meanwhile the high-profile civil-liberties activist and woman politician Malu Dreyer announced she is preparing to run against Merkel for Chancellor in next year’s election.

Germany will be going to the polls on 4 September.

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