Angela Merkel Won't Seek Re-Election As Party Chair

Merkel Coalition Set for Another Battering in Hesse Elections			ODD ANDERSEN  AFP  Getty Images		28 Oct 2018

Angela Merkel will step down as German chancellor when her mandate ends in 2021, a party source told AFP on Monday, following a series of political crises and regional vote debacles rocking her fragile coalition.

"Today it is time to begin a new chapter", she told reporters at her party headquarters.

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.

This will distract her from tending to major challenges at home and overseas - ranging from overcoming a digital deficit and pushing the German auto industry toward cleaner mobility to seeing through euro zone reforms and managing Britain's planned departure from the European Union.

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.

Ms Merkel has been the CDU's chairwoman since 2000 and chancellor since 2005.

"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.

The SPD has suffered a string of regional defeats and last year's worst national election score since the founding of the Federal Republic in 1949.

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Political analysts in Germany have wondered whether Merkel might not serve out a full term if she's not leading her own party - a pairing that Merkel herself has said is crucial to being an effective chancellor.

Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, stepped down as leader of his centre-left Social Democrats in 2004 as his government struggled, but remained chancellor until he narrowly lost an election 18 months later. The anti-immigration, far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) movement secured 12.8% of the Hesse vote, and is now represented in all 16 electoral assemblies.

Nor did the veteran leader's fourth government get off to a good start after its formation earlier this year, with two rows over relatively minor points bringing it to the brink of collapse over the summer.

The Social Democrats' leader, Andrea Nahles, on Sunday demanded a "clear, binding timetable" for implementing government projects before the federal coalition faces an already-agreed upon midterm review next fall.

"The election results show that people expect renewal from the CDU", conservative lawmaker Matern von Marschall told the Stuttgarter newspaper.

"We went into the government because we really want to improve things - for families, for single parents, for caregivers", said Lars Klingbeil, the party's general secretary.

Merkel confirmed her plans at a press conference in Berlin on Monday.

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