Published: Tue, October 30, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Merkel to step down as party chair after election losses

Merkel to step down as party chair after election losses

Two weeks ago, two of the parties in Merkel's federal "grand coalition" of what have traditionally been Germany's strongest political forces - the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-only sister to Merkel's CDU, and the Social Democrats - were battered in a state election in neighbouring Bavaria.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a news conference following the Hesse state election in Berlin, Germany, October 29, 2018.

In a vote in the western state of Hesse on Sunday, the CDU came out top but lost 11 percentage points in support compared to the last election in 2013.

Angela Merkel has headed the CDU for 18 years and has been the German Chancellor since 2005.

Merkel said she took took responsibility for CDU's poor results in state elections since past year.

"She will not stand again for the chairmanship of her party", said the source within the Christian Democratic Union, a day after voters in the Hesse state punished her party in a regional poll.

While making her announcement, Merkel declined to back any of the several CDU members who are seeking to replace her as party chair.

Losing ground to their non-mainstream rivals in a series of recent elections, including Local votes in Hesse and Bavaria and the national election past year has been viewed as unacceptable by many in a nation which has until recently instinctively tied itself to the centre ground.

Young people in Germany can scarcely remember a time before Angela Merkel, 64, was their Chancellor.

Of the SPD, he added: "A party on the way down can not suddenly rise from the ashes by going into the opposition".

Merkel has faced criticism for her handling of the refugee crisis.

Merkel has always made it clear that she would not relinquish that tool.

But she said she would not name a successor.

The move will likely fire the starting gun within the party to potentially succeed Ms Merkel as chancellor.

It had been widely assumed that this would be Merkel's final term as chancellor, but before the reported remarks, she had not confirmed that herself.

"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", said Carsten Nickel, managing director at Teneo, a consultancy.

Merkel ally and CDU secretary general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and the former head of the conservative bloc in the Bundestag parliament, Friedrich Merz, are also standing for the party leadership, according to CDU sources.

There was widespread pre-election speculation that a disastrous result for either or both parties could further destabilise the national government, prompting calls for the Social Democrats to walk out and possibly endangering Mrs Merkel's own position.

"The CDU should make way for a new start in a government or a new election in Germany", he told German television channel NTV. That would be the worst result in the region for the Social Democrats since the Second World War.

That may well end up being the most prominent part of Merkel's legacy. Voters leaving polling stations expressed deep dissatisfaction with the condition of Merkel's national coalition and complained about the constant infighting. The backlash, especially in less prosperous eastern Germany, was swift, giving rise to the AfD, which many Germans condemn as a neo-fascist party.

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