Merkel to stand down as CDU leader, stay German Chancellor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a news conference following the Hesse state election in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her conservative party on Monday that she's ready to step down as party leader following a pair of state election debacles, but plans to stay on as chancellor for the rest of her government's term, German media reported. Her centre-left governing partners were on course for a dismal result, running neck-and-neck with the Greens for second place.

Volker Bouffier, the incumbent CDU state premier in Hesse and a Merkel ally, said his party had achieved its goal of being able to lead the next government in Hesse, but added: "We are in pain because of the losses".

Nahles declined to comment Monday on the reports that Merkel might step down as CDU leader.

That marked a huge drop from the 38.3 percent the CDU won at the last Hesse election, in 2013.

However she has come under mounting pressure in recent months, culminating in a disastrous result for Germany's ruling parties in state elections this weekend.

Volker Bouffier, lead candidate for the German Christian Democrats (CDU), fills in his ballot paper in Hesse state elections on October 28, 2018 in Giessen, Germany.

Short of an end to the coalition, internal frustration in the CDU could instead bubble up in a weak score for Merkel when she stands for re-election as party leader in December - or even a surprise victory for a challenger.

Its loss increases the instability of the CDU's grand coalition with the Social Democrat (CSU) party, with whom the CDU rules in Berlin.




Propelled by the backlash to Merkel's migration policy into the federal Bundestag previous year, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) is now represented in all 16 of Germany's state legislatures, after Hessian voters handed it a 12-percent score.

Currently Merkel's contender is CDU party secretary general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Just two weeks after Angela Merkel's Christian Social Union allies witnessed their worst election results in decades in Bavaria, her own Christian Democrats are experiencing déjà vu in Hesse's regional vote.

Her term as Chancellor was expected to run until 2021.

Merkel has loomed large on the European stage since 2005, helping guide the EU through the euro zone crisis and opening Germany's doors to migrants fleeing war in the Middle East in 2015 - a move that still divides the bloc and Germany.

Merkel has chaired the CDU for 18 years and has until now insisted that the presidency of the party went hand in hand with the chancellorship post.

Ms Merkel's coalition was twice on the brink of collapse, once over immigration policy and then over a dispute about the fate of the domestic intelligence chief who was accused of harbouring far-right views.

The chancellor has indicated that she will seek another two-year term as CDU leader in December.

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