Monday, 29 October 2018
Angela Merkel has said she will stand down as German Chancellor when her current term comes to an end in 2021.
She will also quit as leader of the CDU, a post she has held since 2000, in the coming days, with a new leader due to be elected at party conference in December.
'I will not be seeking any political post after my term ends,' Merkel said, bringing an end to her career after more than a decade at the top of German politics.
She added that she accepts 'full responsibility' for weakening party support, which comes in the wake of the migrant crisis.
Merkel told a news conference that it is time to 'turn a new page' following a string of ballot-box setbacks that started with the general election in 2017, when the CDU haemorrhaged support to anti-migrant party AfD.
It took Merkel months to form a grand coalition government with the SPD after that result, and the alliance has been plagued by infighting and instability ever since.
The parties were humbled in elections in Bavaria earlier this month before the beating in Hesse, which Merkel said should act as a 'wake up call' for her coalition.
Handing over the reins of the CDU to a successor presents 'many more opportunities than risks', she said.
She added that she made the decision over the summer and had intended to announce it next week, but brought the date forward after the result in Hesse.
She has also ruled out running for a senior EU position in the future.
Speaking about who might replace her as CDU leader in December, Merkel confirmed that Health Minister Jens Spahn and CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer are in the running, but refused to state a preference.
She did not comment on rumours that Friedrich Merz, who served in the Bundestag until 2009 but is now in the private sector, will also be putting himself forward.
Merz was parliamentary leader of the CDU/CSU alliance from 2000 until 2002 and also a member of the European Parliament.
He now serves as chairman of BlackRock Germany.
This comes as she is been facing calls to quit from her own conservatives to cede the party's leadership today, further eroding her authority after painful losses in a regional election.
Merkel's CDU came first in Sunday's election in the western state of Hesse but support fell by more than 11 points, reigniting a succession debate by conservatives unhappy with the chancellor's grip on power.
She also faces pressure from her Social Democrat (SPD) junior coalition partners, who have also bled support in Hesse and are under pressure to rethink their alliance with Merkel.
SPD leader Andrea Nahles, whose party saw support fall to its lowest since 1946, threatened to end the alliance with Merkel's conservatives if there is no improvement on policy.
Merkel, chancellor for 13 years, will have to invest her political capital and tactical acumen to keep together her loveless coalition, borne out of necessity seven months ago after an inconclusive federal election last year.
This will distract her from tending to major challenges at home and abroad - ranging from overcoming a digital deficit and pushing the German car industry toward cleaner mobility to seeing through euro zone reforms and managing Britain's planned departure from the European Union.
'The election results show that people expect renewal from the CDU,' conservative lawmaker Matern von Marschall told the Stuttgarter newspaper.
SPD leader Andrea Nahles, whose party saw support fall to its lowest since 1946, has threatened to end the alliance with Merkel's conservatives if there is no improvement on policy
Merkel speaks with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the current Secretary General of the CDU and her potential successor, on Monday ahead of her announcement +8
Merkel speaks with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the current Secretary General of the CDU and her potential successor, on Monday ahead of her announcement
His CDU colleague Christian von Steffen was more blunt: 'We need a meaningful programme with a clear path and new faces.'
A senior CDU member told Reuters that party leaders wanted to discuss the possibility of Merkel reversing her decision to seek re-election as party chairwoman in December.
'This should be discussed,' the member of the CDU governing board told Reuters on the condition of anonymity. CDU leaders will meet next Sunday to prepare for a summit in December where party members will vote for a new chairman.
Nahles is also feeling the heat from SPD members still disgruntled with their leaders' decision to join Merkel instead of fulfilling an election promise to sit in opposition if they fail to win the federal vote.
Merkel became Germany's first female Chancellor when she was elected in 2005 (pictured), a post that she has held ever since
Nahles said on Sunday she would propose a roadmap to allow the SPD to measure the progress of the ruling coalition, which has been plagued by infighting, at a mid-term review next year.
Her proposal did little to appease the head of the SPD's youth wing, who said the election in Hesse was a clear signal that the ruling coalition was not viable.
'The final verdict on the coalition has been spoken,' Kevin Kuehnert wrote in Twitter. 'Voters don't want 'business as usual.''
Merkel's coalition was twice on the brink of collapse, once over immigration policy and then over a dispute about the fate of the domestic intelligence chief who was accused of harbouring far-right views.
The instability has further eroded the credibility of the conservatives and the SPD in the eyes of German voters, who are increasingly turning to smaller parties on the right and on the left.
In Hesse, where Merkel's CDU rule with the ecologist Greens, the two biggest winners were the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.