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FACTBOX - German SPD candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier

BERLIN (Reuters) - Social Democrat (SPD) Frank-Walter Steinmeier is running against conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany’s federal election, which is scheduled for Sunday. Below are some facts about Steinmeier:

-- A political unknown at the national level when he was appointed foreign minister in 2005, the 53-year old Steinmeier quickly emerged as one of Germany’s most popular politicians. He took over the symbolic post of vice-chancellor in November 2007 and was named the Social Democrat (SPD) candidate for chancellor in September 2008.

-- Chief of staff to former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder from 1999 to 2005, Steinmeier has shown himself to be an effective behind-the-scenes mediator and fixer, but his experience as a politician is limited. He has never been elected to office, lacks campaigning experience and has not shown the rhetorical skills and charisma of his mentor Schroeder.

-- Steinmeier is seen as a moderate within the SPD. He has defended Schroeder’s controversial “Agenda 2010” economic reforms against left-wing members of his party but supports traditional SPD positions on phasing out nuclear power, extending the minimum wage and raising taxes on the most wealthy Germans.

-- As foreign minister, Steinmeier has taken issue with Merkel’s open criticism of human rights violations in countries like China and Russia. Unlike Merkel, he also favours Turkish entry into the European Union. But he has worked harmoniously with her on a range of other foreign policy issues, from keeping German troops in Afghanistan, to confronting Iran over its nuclear programme and negotiating binding goals to combat climate change.

-- Born in Detmold, western Germany in 1956, the white-haired, bespectacled Steinmeier studied law and political science at Giessen University. He is married and has one daughter. He likes jazz and is an avid football fan.

Writing by Noah Barkin