Germany’s centre-left Social Democratic Party is holding a special convention to confirm Martin Schulz as the party’s top candidate to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel in the country’s forthcoming general election.

Party leaders unexpectedly nominated Schulz after long-time chairman Sigmar Gabriel stepped aside in January. The party has since experienced a surge in the polls not seen in a decade.

Mr Schulz met Theresa May last year (Matt Dunham/PA)
Mr Schulz met Theresa May last year (Matt Dunham/PA)

Analysts say Schulz, 61, benefits from being a relative newcomer to domestic politics. Until his nomination, he was president of the European Parliament.

The Social Democrats’ general secretary, Katarina Barley, told reporters ahead of the convention on Sunday that the party has seen 13,000 new members join this year.

Merkel, whose centre-right Christian union bloc is in a coalition with the Social Democrats, is running for a fourth term on September 24.