German Chancellor Angela Merkel may have given the finance ministry to her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners but Berlin is not putting its finances at risk, a former lawmaker told CNBC Tuesday. Martin Schulz stepped down saying he wanted to end SPD "personnel debates".
Speaking to Germany's Funke media group, Gabriel said he felt that while "in the eyes of the public I have clearly carried out my duties very well and successfully ..."
The results of the ballot on the coalition deal will be announced on March 4.
As recently as Monday, SPD secretary general Lars Klingbeil reiterated a long-standing demand for a change in party statutes which would require a binding membership vote on the election of any leader rather than their selection by the party's elite leadership circle.
The party has been forced to act swiftly to fill the vacancy left by Schulz as it prepares for a make-or-break vote by the more than 460,000 members on whether to accept or reject the coalition deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc. Many SPD rank and file members harbour serious misgivings about entering into a new government with Merkel again.
Schulz's other announcement Friday - that Andrea Nahles, the party's parliamentary leader, would take over as the Social Democrats' chairwoman - also gave rise to a chorus of concerns.
"Not only has a Bavarian politician passed the pinnacle of his career, but probably a woman from the north too", he added in a dig at Merkel and Horst Seehofer, leader of the arch-conservative Bavarian sister party (CSU) to Merkel's CDU.
Schulz's own plans were becoming a major distraction for the SPD.
Under a grand coalition agreement, Olaf Scholz, the popular mayor of Hamburg, is set to take on the powerful role of finance minister.
In a cartoon on Tuesday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily showed Nahles with a whip riding an SPD snail. The deal has potentially paved the way for Germany to finally form a government after months of political instability following the indecisive parliamentary elections in September. The SPD was at a record low of 16.5 percent, barely ahead of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Schulz, 62, ditched plans to take the post of foreign minister after fierce criticism from some former allies, not least because he had pledged not to serve in a cabinet with Merkel.
The SPD has slid into disarray since its leaders struck the coalition deal last week, blighted by bitter divisions over whether to join the coalition, a loss of confidence in outgoing leader Martin Schulz and discontent over the succession process.