German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told leaders of her Christian Democrats (CDU) that she will not seek re-election as party chairwoman at a conference in early December, a senior party source said on Monday.
Merkel, 64, has been CDU chairwoman since 2000 and giving up the role would start a race within the party to succeed her as chancellor.
German news agency DPA, citing sources, tweeted that Merkel wanted to remain chancellor.
Monday’s developments come after the CDU came home first but bled support in a vote in the western state of Hesse on Sunday, the second electoral setback in as many weeks for Merkel’s conservative alliance.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) came home first in Sunday’s election in the western state of Hesse but support fell by more than 11 points, reigniting a succession debate by conservatives unhappy with the chancellor’s grip on power.
Standing down from the party chair would allow a new CDU chairman or woman to build a profile before the next national election, due in 2021. Merkel’s favored successor is CDU party secretary general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Merkel’s weakness at home may limit her capacity to lead in the European Union at a time when the bloc is dealing with Brexit, a budget crisis in Italy and the prospect of populist parties making gains at European parliament elections next May.
SPD leader gives Merkel an ultimatum after state vote losses
SPD leader Andrea Nahles said she would use a roadmap with which to measure the progress of the ruling coalition, which has been plagued by infighting, at a mid-term review next year.
“We could then gauge the implementation of this roadmap at the agreed mid-term review, when we would be able to clearly see if this government is the right place for us,” Nahles told reporters. “The state of the government is unacceptable.”
Her message was clear: the SPD needs to be able to show tangible results to its supporters next year or else the party’s leaders will pull out of the coalition with Merkel.
The center-left Social Democrats (SPD) won just 19.6% of the vote in Hesse, falling down from 30.7%, their worse result since 1946.