March 2, 2017 / 5:04 PM / 2 years ago

German SPD membership surges with new leader in election year

Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz speaks during a traditional Ash Wednesday meeting in Vilshofen, Germany, March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) have seen a surge in new members, a further sign of the party’s revival under new leader Martin Schulz who will face Chancellor Angela Merkel in a September election.

More than 10,000 people have joined the party in the past five weeks, 80 percent more than during the whole of last year, the SPD said on Thursday.

Since Schulz took over as party leader at the end of January, polls have shown support for the SPD increasing by around 10 percentage points, threatening conservative Merkel’s re-election hopes after 11 years in office.

By the end of February, the SPD had 438,829 members compared with 432,706 at the end of 2016, the party said. More than 40 percent of the new members are younger than 35 years old.

At the end of January, Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) had 430,683 members but that does not include those in the large state of Bavaria which is represented by the Christian Social Union (CSU) sister party.

Reporting by Holger Hansen; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Susan Fenton

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