Angela Merkel to step down as German chancellor in 2021

Hugh Fox
October 29, 2018

Germany's governing parties have lost significant support in a state election marked by discontent with infighting in Chancellor Angela Merkel's national government. But its share of the vote plummeted to about 27 percent, its poorest result in half a century in the wealthy state and a far cry from the 38 percent it achieved in the last state election just five years ago.

Merkel's coalition partner in Berlin, the Social Democrats (SPD), tanked to 19.8% in a dead heat with the resurgent Green party for second place.

As the country's two traditionally dominant centrist parties flailed in Hesse, forces on either flank surged: The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the progressive Greens.

Mass-circulation daily Bild reported, citing sources in the CDU leadership, that Mrs Merkel said she would not run again for the party leadership.

Andrea Nahles, leader of the Social Democrats, on Sunday demanded a "clear, binding timetable" for implementing government projects before the coalition faces an already-agreed midterm review next fall.

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Merkel has dragged the CDU to the political center in her years as leader, dropping military conscription, introducing benefits encouraging fathers to look after their young children, and abruptly accelerating the shutdown of Germany's nuclear power plants following Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder stepped down as leader of his party in 2004 but remained Chancellor.

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.

That result would allow the current state government of the CDU and Greens to continue, albeit with a thinner majority. But the CDU and ecologist Greens may lack sufficient support to renew their ruling alliance in the state.

Rossteutscher said the SPD will be reluctant to bring down Merkel's Government because party leaders know that if they do, and early elections are called, the SPD "would be the biggest loser".

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According to projections updated around 8pm, Ms. Merkel's CDU remained the strongest party in Hesse.

She told party top brass her mandate running to 2021 will be "her last term", a party source said, adding that she has no plans to seek a post in the European Commission following that despite speculation to that effect in Brussels.

The AfD claimed nearly 13 per cent of the vote - almost exactly the same percentage that it won in last year's national elections - and a place in Hesse's Parliament for the first time.

The other big victor was the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered the Hesse regional assembly for the first time with 12 percent of the vote, the ARD exit poll showed.

A growing swell of SPD members feel their party is tarnished by its alliance with Merkel and would be best to rebuild in opposition - a scenario SPD leader Andreas Nahles has resisted.

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