Merkel to stand down as CDU leader, stay German Chancellor

Leroy Wright
October 30, 2018

News agency dpa cited unidentified party sources as saying Merkel told an ongoing CDU leadership meeting that she's prepared to step down as party leader. That decision has led to lasting tensions in her conservative Union bloc, particularly with the CDU's Bavaria-only sister party, the CSU, and helped the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party gain support. Most of all, she remains the chancellor for a while longer.

Ms Merkel has led the Christian Democrats since 2000 and been chancellor since 2005.

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

"With unresolved issues in the Eurozone, budget issues with Italy and the potential for a bumpy Brexit, the European Union will be looking to Merkel and Macron for leadership", he explained.

According to "multiple media reports", Merkel announced her intention to retire as the chief of the CDU.

"She was genuinely sad and not at all bitter and asked that the discussion about her succession be conducted in a kind manner", the source said, adding that Merkel's words were greeted with a standing ovation.

The repeated electoral beatings have hurt Merkel and severely damaged the ruling coalition as the SPD blames chancellor's policies for its slump in the ballot box. It was the first coalition between the CDU and the traditionally left-leaning Greens to last a full parliamentary term, and an unexpectedly harmonious alliance. Instead, Merkel has forced the issue of succession with nearly three years to go on her fourth term, which seems more tailored to the need for the CDU to prepare a new candidate for chancellor, too.

Stepping down as CDU chairwoman further undermines Merkel's authority, which has been dented this year by the two regional election setbacks and a close ally losing his role as leader of her conservatives' parliamentary group.

Merkel's decision has made it even more likely that the SPD will withdraw from the coalition, which would shift the burden of responsibility for the government's failure onto the Social Democrats' shoulders.

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At the same time, she said the CDU will be able "to prepare for the time after me".

While still widely respected overseas, her recent domestic woes have kept Merkel away from the European stage, thwarting French President's Emmanuel Macron's push to reform the eurozone with Merkel by his side.

Friedrich Merz, 62, has never forgiven the chancellor for driving him out as head of the party's group of MPs in the Bundestag in 2002.

Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, stepped down as leader of his party in February 2004 but remained chancellor until November of the following year.

Two prominent candidates immediately threw their hats in the ring for the CDU leadership.

Merkel's favoured successor is CDU party secretary general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

And Health Minister Jens Spahn, an ambitious conservative who has talked tough on migration and has criticized Merkel, stands for a more right-wing candidate.

Anxious at stemming the haemorrhage of voters to the AfD, Merkel's conservative Bavarian allies CSU had championed hardline immigration and openly attacked her, all of which backfired as they ended up alienating moderate voters. "I see this as an opening, a phase of opportunities".

A disastrous result for either or both parties could further destabilize the national government and ultimately the position of Merkel, Germany's leader for the past 13 years.

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