Published: Mon, October 29, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

German Chancellor Angela Merkel to step down as party leader

German Chancellor Angela Merkel to step down as party leader

Angela Merkel's party, the Christian Democratic Union, suffered a 10 percent slump in the polls yesterday, to win just 28 percent of the vote in the central German state elections.

Being able to keep Bouffier, a deputy CDU leader, as governor will stabilize Merkel in the short term, he said. The Social Democratic Party (SPD), which went toe-to-toe with the CDU for decades, secured 20 percent.

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.

The chancellor is weakened after years of battling over her 2015 open borders decision.

The AfD, meanwhile, gained 12 percent of the votes. The latter was vying with the SPD for second place after its best result in the state's history.

The government nearly collapsed twice over the summer, notably when Merkel restrained hardline interior minister Horst Seehofer's attempts to toughen up migrant policy. After that vote, Merkel allies blamed the CSU's rightward lurch on immigration for its poor results.

Mrs Merkel's chief of staff, Helge Braun, said that the national government must now pull together and "show we are solving the problems that really move people".

The CDU now governs the state in coalition with the Greens.

"The message was very clear: Don't quarrel".

Such results would make various regional coalitions possible, with the Greens potentially joining parties to their right or left or even, if their results are exceptionally good, having a chance to make their local leader Tarek Al-Wazir - now Bouffier's deputy - the state governor.

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In Hesse, where Ms Merkel's CDU rule with the ecologist Greens, the two biggest winners were the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

A fall from power in Hesse had been seen as possible prelude to a much more consequential shake-up for the party.

While she will remain Chancellor of Germany, media reports say she will not stand for the CDU leadership bid again and that she'll put forward her candidacy at a CDU party conference in Hamburg on 7-8 December this year.

Had the party relinquished control in Hesse, some analysts saw her as vulnerable to an intraparty challenge.

The results in Bavaria and Hesse mirror political trends nationwide.

The result means the anti-immigration party, which entered the federal parliament for the first time a year ago, is now also represented in all 16 German regional assemblies.

And Mr. Bouffier, noting that his party fared better in the Hesse vote than it now does in polls nationally, seems keen to stay in power.

Merkel now governs Germany in a "grand coalition" of what traditionally have been the country's biggest parties - the CDU, Bavaria's CSU, and the Social Democrats.

Exit polls showed both of the formerly dominant parties being hit with losses of around 11 percentage points in Hesse compared with the last election in 2013, although the CDU still claimed first place on 27.2 percent of the vote.

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