Germany's Angela Merkel prepares exit plan after party's poor election showing

Arturo Kim
October 29, 2018

The world was a different place in April 2000 when a young Angela Merkel toasted victory as she was elected leader of the Christian Democratic Union party.

Citing unidentified party sources, dpa reported that Merkel told an ongoing CDU leadership meeting Monday that she's prepared to step down as party leader but intends to remain chancellor.

"The state of the government is unacceptable", Social Democratic Party (SPD) general secretary Andrea Nahles said at a Berlin news conference.

This comes as she is been facing calls to quit from her own conservatives to cede the party's leadership today, further eroding her authority after painful losses in a regional election.

Merkel, chancellor for 13 years, will have to invest her political capital and tactical acumen to keep together her loveless coalition, borne out of necessity seven months ago after an inconclusive federal election last year.

The unexpected reversal by Merkel, 64, signals the beginning of the end of an era during which her command of Germany put its stamp on Europe and beyond for more than a decade.

The news followed a poor result in the Hesse state election yesterday, where both Ms Merkel's CDU and its partners in national government, the Social Democrats, lost ground.

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Merkel, now the EU's and G7's most senior leader, started as a contemporary of George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac when she became Germany's youngest and first female chancellor in 2005.

This position has allowed the so-called grand coalition which presently rules Germany, an alliance between the main centre-right CDU and main centre-left SPD, from parties which should, in theory, be opposed on government but are united in keeping other voices out of power.

Merkel has been in a hard position since September 2017, when a national election left her party without an overall majority. The CSU also suffered a setback in Sunday's Hesse elections.

Ms Nahles is also feeling the heat from party members still disgruntled with her decision to join Ms Merkel instead of fulfilling an election promise to sit in opposition if they fail to win the federal vote. But there is precedent for splitting the two jobs.

Lead candidate of Alternative for Germany (AFD) Rainer Rahn and Janine Wissler, lead candidate of Die Linke on TV following the election results. That's two-thirds of the party's 2013 result and its worst showing since 1946.

He said that it's important to avoid "long personnel debates" and restore people's confidence in the CDU as a governing party.

In 2015, Germany accepted more than one million refugees under circumstances the Chancellor described as "extraordinary". That decision has led to lasting tensions in her conservative Union bloc, particularly with the CDU's Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union.

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