In a earthquake decision Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced she would relinquish the chairwoman post of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party she has led for almost two decades.
Similarly, Merkel revealed she would not seek the chancellorship when her term ends in 2021.
In an address to reporters declaring she was “not born chancellor,” a stoic Merkel accepted responsibility for her party’s recent election losses and said:
“As chancellor and leader of the CDU I’m politically responsible for everything, for successes and for failures.”
“When people are telling us what they think of how the government was formed and what they think of our work during the first seven months of this parliament . . . then it is a clear signal that things can’t carry on as they are.
The end of an era, Merkel’s decision to step down from the party leadership position in December follows her CDU’s disastrous showings in back-to-back regional elections.
In separate elections over the past several weeks, CDU candidates suffered staggering losses in Hesse elections. Polls showed CDU dropped from 38 percent to 27 percent.
In the same election, Merkel’s CDU junior partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), sunk more than 10 points, from 30 percent to 19 percent.
Weeks earlier, in another weak showing in Bavaria, Merkel’s CDU party earned 37 percent at the polls, down 10 percent from 2013 elections. Similarly, coalition partner SPD dropped dramatically to 9.7 percent.
In both the Bavarian and Hesse elections, Greens and far-right AfD surged at the polls.
Merkel’s departure has sparked a furious scramble as to who may succeed her in both posts, triggering speculation she may be forced to hand over the chancellorship before her term expires in 2021.
Among her potential successors: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel protege and current CDU party chairwoman; Jens Spahn, current health minister; and former CDU party leader, Friedrich Merz. All three have announced their candidacy to replace Merkel.
Merkel, who has led Europe’s strongest economy for 13 years, replaced Gerhard Schröder in 2005.
[The Guardian] [BBC] [Photo courtesy EPA/EFE via Straits Times]