Angela Merkel 'To Step Down From Christian Democrat Party In December'

Saul Bowman
October 30, 2018

Sunday's election is adding to the picture of a fragmentation of German politics, testimony to the continued resonance of the 2015 migration crisis.

Merkel's weakness at home may limit her capacity to lead in the European Union at a time when the bloc is dealing with Brexit, a budget crisis in Italy and the prospect of populist parties making gains at European parliament elections next May.

It had been widely assumed that this would be Mrs Merkel's final term as chancellor, but before the remarks reported by the dpa news agency she had not offered any confirmation.

After the election, an Infratest Dimap poll found that nearly all AfD supporters worry that German culture and way of life is under threat.

After speculation by media and politicians alike around why the chancellor made the announcement, Ms. Merkel said she had chose to signal that she had heard the message voters were sending. It also proves that Merkel has not lost her instinct for survival even as she is on her way down.

Ms Merkel said the Hesse and Bavarian results should serve as a turning point for the Coalition Government and that things could not continue business as usual.

What it means for Merkel?

She was seeking to strike a sober contrast to the highly personal internal quarrels of the conservative camp in recent months.

Heiner Bremer, a German political commentator, said Ms. Merkel was unlikely herself to nominate someone to follow in her shoes but would be more likely to pass on such recommendations via politicians within the party who enjoy more support. "It will be interesting to see what happens now, because this is initiating a dynamic, the outcome of which is unforeseeable today".

Although Merkel's current roles of party chair and Chancellor are customarily held by the same person, it is not a legal necessity. The CDU is due to elect a new party chair at the conference in December.

The announcement will end her 18-year run as the leader of Germany's mainstream conservative party. According to exit polls and projections from the provisional stages of the count, the Social Democrats are expected to lose as much as 11 percent from their previous total, and secure around 20 percent of the vote.

Merkel, who is thought to be preparing a slow withdrawal from politics, had previously indicated she would stand for the position, potentially for the last time.

Party sources also said that Friedrich Merz, a former parliamentary leader of Merkel's conservative alliance, was ready to put himself forward for the CDU chairmanship.

She said the SPD would now lay out a "roadmap" in Berlin demanding concrete progress on key issues by next October, including pension rights and better childcare, before deciding whether to remain in the coalition.

"This fourth term is my last term as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany".

Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, stepped down as party leader in February 2004 but remained chancellor until November 2005. At midday on Monday, Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer also announced her candidacy, sources said.

After 13 years in power, it also appears that her domestic appeal is on the wane.

Merkel has dragged the CDU to the political centre 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.

She swung her conservatives behind bailouts for Greece and other struggling eurozone nations, striking a balance between calls for a strict approach at home and more generosity overseas.

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".

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