In the wake of two disastrous electoral defeats in regional elections in as many weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told senior figures in her party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), that she will not seek re-election as party chairwoman in December and won’t seek another term as chancellor when her current mandate ends in 2021.
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.
Merkel announced at a press conference shortly after midday on October 29 that she would be stepping down as chairwoman of the CDU, a position that she’s held for 18 years. As Germany’s first woman to serve as chancellor, she rose to power on the image of a pragmatic, pro-business leader, but her open-door refugee policy that saw more than 1.6 million people seeking asylum, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, enter Germany since the 2015 migrant crisis began. The policy is seen as having severely weakened Merkel’s support and has led to the rise of the anti-immigrant far-right partyAlternative for Germany.
In the election in Hesse, Merkel’s CDU lost more than 10% of its support in comparison with the last election after having captured only 27% of the vote.
The CDU will now have to begin the process of finding a successor for Merkel. The potential candidates are likely to include Health Minister Jens Spahn; the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet; and Merkel’s much-rumoured heir, the CDU’s General Secretary, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
So far, only three CDU members have officially registered their candidacy, including the Hessian entrepreneur Andreas Ritzenhoff, Bonn University Professor Matthias Herdegen, and Jan-Philipp Knoop, a Berlin law student.