Merkel, Germany's 'eternal' chancellor, embarks on last lap

Geneva Stokes
October 29, 2018

Merkel, who has been CDU chairwoman since 2000, told a party leadership meeting of her offer on Monday morning, after the party reeled from heavy losses in two recent regional elections, most recently on Sunday in Hesse.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel has told leaders of her Christian Democrats (CDU) that she will not seek re-election as party chairwoman at a conference in early December, sources have told German media.

Sunday's election in the central state of Hesse saw both Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union and the center-left Social Democrats lose significant ground, while there were gains for both the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

After allowing more than one million migrants into Germany since 2015, sparking a strong backlash against immigration, Merkel has been battling for her political future.

The SPD plunged to its worst result in decades to tie for second place with the up-and-coming ecologist Greens, each at 19.8 percent. She has been chancellor for 13 years.

Merkel, now the EU's and G7's most senior leader, started as a contemporary of George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac when she became Germany's youngest and first female chancellor in 2005.

After 18 years as party chief, the move throws open the succession race for a post that has traditionally has been the springboard for CDU chancellors.

Propelled by the backlash to Merkel's migration policy into the federal Bundestag a year ago, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) is now represented in all 16 of Germany's state legislatures, after Hessian voters handed it a 12-percent score.

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The poor result for Germany's two biggest parties, just weeks after a similar defeat in Bavaria, underscores voters' increasing frustration with the embattled "grand coalition" that governs them.

Others include two state premiers Armin Laschet and Daniel Guenther, who carry weight after recently leading the CDU to victory in regional elections.

It is still unclear what this means for Merkel's leadership.

Merkel's fourth and probably final government has already come close to collapsing twice.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, secretary general of the CDU, is seen October 21 in Berlin during the election campaign.

Several conservative party sources said that Friedrich Merz, a former parliamentary leader of Merkel's conservative alliance, was ready to put himself forward for the CDU chairmanship at the party's congress in December.

The CSU, led by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, lost 10 percent in comparison with the 2013 election and scored its worst result in 50 years, which was branded "painful" and "bitter" both by the CSU and CDU.

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