German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Monday that she will step down as the leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union party after 18 years.
This comes after the CDU party suffered huge losses in elections in Hesse on Sunday and a few weeks after similar losses in Bavaria. Merkel will continue as chancellor, a post she’s had since 2005.
The move means the party will have to find a new leader in December. Typically, the leader of the party is also the chancellor, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. Political experts see this as Merkel responding to voters after recent elections and calming the nerves within her party.
The CDU had its worst showing in Hesse since 1966. The Social Democrats, or SPD, had its worst loss since 1946. That could pressure party leader Andrea Nahles to abandon the coalition with Merkel.
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Government figures Friedrich Merz, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Jens Spahn and Armin Laschet could be the next CDU party leaders. The party chairman would be in line to be chancellor if Merkel did resign.
The next federal election is in 2021.
Christian Lindner, the head of the pro-business Free Democratic Party, said Merkel dropped the wrong post. Merkel has been under pressure for creating a coalition with the SPD. The Social Democrats also saw huge losses in the elections.
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“The CDU should make way for a new start in a government or a new election in Germany,” he told German television channel NTV.
The Greens and the Alternative for Germany, a far right-wing party, are making gains while CDU and SPD continue to lose. The AfD party has representatives in all 16 states in Germany.
“The AfD is now firmly established in the German electorate,” AfD party leader Alice Weidel tweeted. “Here to stay!”