Ex-German SPD chief suggests quitting coalition over EU top jobs deal

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who has been nominated as European Commission President, attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, July 3, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - A former leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) has suggested the party could quit Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition over the nomination of Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission chief.

“If Merkel names von der Leyen without a cabinet decision, that is a clear violation of the rules of the federal government - and a reason to leave the government,” Sigmar Gabriel told German magazine Der Spiegel.

Merkel said on Tuesday she abstained in a vote of EU leaders on von der Leyen’s nomination - the only leader not to back her - as the coalition government was at odds on the question.

Gabriel described von der Leyen’s nomination as an “unprecedented act of political trickery.”

Writing by Paul Carrel, editing by Thomas Escritt