Schulz confirmed SPD chief to challenge Merkel in elections

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In a speech to the SPD rank and file, the 61-year-old attempted to harness this momentum against Merkel, whose conservatives just a few months ago had an apparently invincible lead in the polls.

Martin Schulz on Sunday, March 19 officially became Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief rival at Germany's September general election, leading the leftwing challenge to unseat arguably the world's most powerful woman, AFP reports. He is the only challenger of Merkel in the race for chancellorship.

The 61-year-old, who was until recently the president of the European Parliament, said his party would work to strengthen worldwide cooperation, including with the United States, but rejected what he called the "misogynistic, anti-democratic and racist" rhetoric of President Donald Trump.

By George! Clooney surprises elderly fan for birthday
Staffer Linda Jones posted a pic of herself with Pat and Clooney, who wore a leather jacket and a wide smile. Clooney moved to Sonning, where he lives with his pregnant human rights lawyer wife Amal, in 2014 .

"Being a relative outsider has helped and should carry him a little bit further", Carsten Nickel, an analyst for Teneo Intelligence in Brussels, said by phone. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who stepped aside as party head in January to make way for Schulz, received only 74 percent support in his last election as SPD chairman in December 2015. Merkel's has 33% support, with the SPD on 32%.

Merkel's CDU/CSU conservative alliance has been in power under her since 2005.

According to DW, Schulz was elected unanimously and it marks the first time an SPD chancellor candidate has ever been nominated with 100 percent of the vote. Schulz and Merkel's parties are now in a coalition government in the state, as they are at the national level. He ruled out governing with the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, or AfD. In a nod to critics on the left, Schulz is proposing to expand benefits for jobless who agree to retraining. The pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) lost a half percentage point to 6.5 percent.

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