Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Merkel to step down from key party role after regional losses

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for another round of pre-talks on forming a new German government at the headquarters of her Christian Democratic Union in Berlin Friday Nov. 17 2017 Stakes High for Merkel Gov't German State of Hesse Holds Regional Election
Andrew Cummings | 30 October, 2018, 01:52

Merkel, 64, had previously indicated that she planned to seek another two-year term as leader of her Christian Democratic Union at a December party congress, but appeared to be moving quickly to acknowledge pressure for renewal as her fourth-term government struggles to gain traction.

Nahles declined to comment Monday on the reports that Merkel might step down as CDU leader.

A new CDU chair will be elected at the upcoming party conference in December, Deutsche Welle said.

Mrs Merkel is not standing down as chancellor - on the contrary, the move is an attempt to extend her time in power by quieting the growing rebellion within her party.

The result in Hesse "is therefore the final piece of evidence that the AfD has established itself within the German party system", Carsten Nickel, a German politics expert at political risks consultancy Teneo Intelligence, wrote in a note on Sunday. Merkel has said that she will not endorse any of the candidates running to replace her.

Merkel told reporters that being Chancellor has been a "very challenging and fulfilling task".

In Germany, many begged to differ, especially the anti-immigration and anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, whose angriest rallying cry is "Merkel must go".

In Hesse, both her centre-right CDU and its coalition partners, the Social Democrats, were 10% down on the previous poll there - even though they remain in power.

The current parliamentary term ends in late 2021.

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The surprise announcement that Merkel would leave her party's leadership but remain in the chancellorship did not satisfy her critics. Merkel's party managed an unimpressive win, narrowly salvaging a majority for its regional governing coalition with the Greens.

Two weeks ago, two of the federal governing parties - the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-only sister to Merkel's CDU, and the Social Democrats - were battered in a state election in neighboring Bavaria.

She took over as CDU leader in a manoeuvre that gave birth to the term "Merkelvellian".

Her Catholic, western German background contrasts with Ms Merkel's Protestant, eastern roots.

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.

Merkel's departure comes after a series of party losses in regional elections, most recently in the central German region of Hesse - a former CDU stronghold - on Sunday.

"She will not stand again for the chairmanship of her party", a source within the Christian Democratic Union told AFP.

On the contrary, she has said she fully intends to see out her term, which is supposed to end in 2021, and not seek a fifth term.

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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