German Chancellor Angela Merkel to step down as party leader

Glen Norman
October 29, 2018

Mrs Merkel has been leader of the CDU since 2000, and Chancellor for 13 years, a period which has seen her dominate European Union and world politics.

A disastrous result for either or both parties could further destabilize the national government and ultimately the position of Merkel, Germany's leader for the past 13 years.

The election for the state parliament in Hesse - home of Frankfurt, the heart of German finance - gave Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 27 per cent of the vote, according to projections based on partial returns.

An election Sunday in the central state of Hesse saw both the CDU and the Social Democrats lose significant ground, while there were gains for both the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

The center-left Social Democrats (SPD) fared even worse, winning just 20 percent of the vote, down from 30.7 percent and its worst result in the western state since 1946.

Increasing numbers of SPD members are calling for the party to quit government immediately and lick its wounds in opposition, as it is presently polling below AfD nationwide, at 15 percent to the far-right's 16 percent. The two parties in power in Berlin, the chancellor's Christian Democratic Union and the center-left Social Democrats, lost 11 percentage points each in a high-stakes vote in Hesse on Sunday.

Angela Merkel's ruling coalition suffered heavy losses for the second time in as many weeks in a German state election that is likely to have national repercussions. Merkel's party managed an unimpressive win, narrowly salvaging a majority for its regional governing coalition with the Greens in Hesse. A very poor performance in Hesse could embolden critics to push for the Social Democrats to leave the federal coalition, and endanger the job of party leader Andrea Nahles.

Die Welt reporter Robin Alexander said the path could now be clear for Merkel's chosen heir, CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, to take the reins if no other credible candidate emerges by December.

Merkel is now headed for a re-election bid in December within her own party, where only 13% of responding CDU voters believe that Merkel has helped the party within Heisse, and this marks the fifth time that Merkel's government has come close to collapsing in on itself from within.

Hesse's election was closely watched by analysts for signs of further dropping support for the CDU and SPD.

"We are the People's Party!" she wrote, noting that the AfD is now "firmly anchored" in the German parliament and is "here to stay".

Carsten Nickel, managing director at political consultancy firm Teneo, said: "We are witnessing a continuation of the pattern in place ever since Merkel's mistakes in the 2015 migration crisis: the gradual but steady erosion of her political power".

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

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