After yet another painful defeat for her party in a regional election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday that she would relinquish her role as president of the Christian Democratic Union and would not seek political office after her current term as chancellor.
The CDU’s share of votes in the state of Hesse fell to its lowest point in around 50 years, while the Greens and the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) both surged to around 20% and 13% of the vote respectively.
The CDU’s coalition partner, the left-wing Social Democratic Party, also plummeted in the polls, falling to less than 20% of the vote, down from more than 30% in the same election the last time around.
The German chancellor’s decision to relinquish her role as head of the party while retaining her chancellorship will trigger a procedure “unprecedented in the history of the Federal Republic,” Merkel said on Monday.
In the short term, the vote dramatically weakens an already embattled Merkel and puts the viability of the CDU-SPD coalition in question. That could mean more contentious coalition negotiations, though the current so-called “grand coalition” might limp on.
In the long term, Merkel’s departure is another sign of a changing political landscape in Europe, which has seen anti-euro parties continue to gain momentum.
Merkel’s five-point statement, given at a press conference in Berlin after the Hesse election (from German daily Die Welt):
- She will no longer stand as party leader at the party congress on December 7 and 8 in Hamburg. Merkel has been the CDU chief for 18 years.
- “The fourth chancery is my last. I will no longer run for Chancellor and no longer as a Member of the Bundestag and will not seek any further political office. “
- For the remainder of the legislative period, she remains available as Chancellor.
- “I depart from my deep conviction that chancellorship and party leadership belong in one hand. That’s a risk.”
- The new CDU leadership team could adapt to Hamburg with a new basic program for the time after her. “I am aware that this procedure is unprecedented in the history of the Federal Republic.” But she was convinced that her actions offered more opportunities than risks.