Angela Merkel to step down chancellorship

Angela Merkel to step down chancellorship

Her current term as chancellor runs into 2021 - and Merkel said she is "prepared" to stay in the chancellor post through her current term.

She now governs Germany, Europe's most powerful economy, in a "grand coalition" of what traditionally have been the country's biggest parties - the CDU, Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union, and the center-left Social Democrats.

There were gains for the Greens, who were roughly level with Social Democrats at up to 20 per cent.

The debacle followed a battering in a state election in Bavaria two weeks ago for the CSU and the Social Democrats.

Her announcement comes amid growing concerns about far-right nationalist parties making inroads in Europe, including Germany.

As the country's two traditionally dominant centrist parties flailed, forces on either flank surged: the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the progressive Greens. Much has changed since then, and as the gap between the USA and its European allies has widened during the Trump administration, Merkel's worldwide profile has grown. "Angela Merkel knows best what to do, and now she has decided".

At the moment, it is still too early to tell whether she will be able to govern effectively as a lame-duck chancellor, or if it will strengthen her coalition, said Thorsten Faas, political science professor at Berlin's Free University. "It will be interesting to see what happens now, because this is initiating a dynamic, the outcome of which is unforeseeable today".

The CDU holds its annual congress in December, when Merkel will seek re-election as party chairwoman.

The CDU will now have to begin the process of finding a successor for Merkel.

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"The time has come to open a new chapter", Merkel said.

According to sources with knowledge of the discussions, the party's poor electoral results in the German state Hesse and rapidly declining national poll numbers for the federal coalition government have convinced Merkel, who was first elected as Germany's head of state in 2005, to begin planning her exit from the political stage.

The Social Democrats, who were badly beaten in last year's national election, only reluctantly entered Merkel's fourth-term national government in March. If things go well, "it could have a positive effect for us and our work together".

The CDU's general secretary, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said the coalition needs to identify "three concrete projects for the coming months that we implement".

Another more conservative figure, Friedrich Merz, also reportedly planned to seek the leadership.

But Sunday's vote suggests the CDU's image has also taken a hit during a year when the nation's politics have been dominated by a sustained feud within Merkel's government.

It had been widely assumed this would be Merkel's final term in office, but the comments were the chancellor's first public confirmation.

Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, stepped down as leader of his center-left Social Democrats in 2004 as his government struggled, but remained chancellor. She has been chancellor for 13 years.

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