German SPD’s Platzeck to Resign as Brandenburg State Premier

German Social Democrat Matthias Platzeck, premier of the eastern state of Brandenburg, will step down for health reasons, dealing a possible blow to the party as it seeks to unseat Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Platzeck, who has served as the state’s prime minister since 2002 and held the SPD’s national chairmanship briefly following the 2005 election, was scheduled to return to work today after suffering a minor stroke last month. The popular 59-year-old state leader will be replaced by Brandenburg’s interior minister, Dietmar Woidke, Die Welt newspaper reported.

“This is a great loss for German politics,” the SPD federal parliamentary whip, Thomas Oppermann, said in a message on Twitter in which he confirmed the resignation. A spokeswoman in Platzeck’s office in the state capital, Potsdam, declined to comment when contacted by phone.

Platzeck’s departure leaves the SPD without one of its most experienced leaders in eastern Germany ahead of the Sept. 22 national election as it trails Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc by about 15 points in most polls. The premier has been politically active in the east since before the 1989 opening of the Berlin Wall.

“There’s the feeling that another one of the good ones has gone,” Manfred Guellner, head of Berlin-based pollster Forsa, said in a telephone interview. “There was a lot of sympathy for him among the people.”

In January, Platzeck replaced Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit as supervisory board chairman of Berlin-Brandenburg Airport after criticism following repeated delays in opening the facility, which had been due to start operating in 2011.

Past Resignation

Platzeck attained national prominence in November 2005 when he was elected party chairman with a tally of 99.4 percent of delegates. He lasted less than five months, stepping down the following April, also after a spell of ill health.

The premier has suffered setbacks in his current term as premier of Brandenburg, the state that surrounds Berlin. When he formed a coalition with the successor to former East Germany’s ruling communists, the Left Party, after winning November 2009 elections, members of the Left were later implicated for their past connections with the East German secret police, the Stasi.

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