Angela Merkel 'to quit as party leader but remain Germany's chancellor'

Angela Merkel 'to quit as party leader but remain Germany's chancellor'

Angela Merkel's decision to step down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union and end her political career when her current term as chancellor expires in 2021 throws open the race to succeed her after 13 years in power.

Angela Merkel finally took action to stem the growing panic within her coalition government on Monday when she announced she would step down as leader of her Christian Democrat party (CDU) in December.

"It is time today for me to start a new chapter", Merkel told reporters in Berlin. Her decision to step down as chairwoman comes after her party suffered its second regional election setback in as many weeks. Sunday's vote in the economically strong state of Hesse proves that the country wants change. "I have said over the past few days that Angela Merkel knows best what to do, and now she has decided". "With these latest results, it has simply become untenable that Merkel continues to lead the CDU", said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director at Eurasia Group, a consultancy.

AfD leader Joerg Meuthen hailed Merkel's eventual departure as "good news".

The end of the long love affair with the CDU no doubt began in 2015 and 2016, when Ms. Merkel welcomed a million migrants, majority Syrians, as a humanitarian gesture.

But another three years in the parliamentary saddle now seems unlikely as the centre-right CDU and its centre-left coalition partner, the gravely wounded Social Democratic Party (SPD), lose popularity at dire rates at the national and regional levels.

The Social Democrats only reluctantly entered Merkel's fourth-term national government in March, and many are dismayed by what has happened since.

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Merkel had until now always insisted that the posts of party chief and chancellor in Europe's top economy should be held by the same person.

In Bavarian elections on October 15, Merkel's coalition partner the CSU lost its majority in the regional parliament for the first time since 1957.

Merkel has dragged the CDU to the political center in her years as leader, dropping military conscription, introducing benefits encouraging fathers to look after their young children, and abruptly accelerating the shutdown of Germany's nuclear power plants following Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011.

"Merkel chose not to use barbed wire, clubs, water cannon, machine guns and tanks to chase away thousands of desperate refugees on the German border", wrote her friend, the singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann.

The arrival of more than a million asylum seekers since has not only left a deep chasm in German society, it has also empowered a far-right party that has upended German politics. This could help her to win the support of CDU members across the aisle, even though she is seen warily as a close Merkel ally.

That was good enough for first place but down 11 per cent since the state last voted, in 2013, and represents the party's worst performance there in more than half a century.

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