Angela Merkel steps down as CDU party leader

Germany's governing parties punished in state election

Angela Merkel on Monday announced she will quit as German chancellor when her mandate ends in 2021, as she sought to draw a line under a series of political crises that have rocked her fragile coalition.

What does Ms. Merkel's decision to give up the party leadership mean?

Often referred to by her initials "AKK", her Catholic views overlap more with the conservative wing of the CDU than Merkel on social questions like abortion or gay marriage.

That will start with her handing off the party leadership to a successor at a party congress in December.

Merkel told reporters Monday, however, that she wouldn't try and influence the process of who succeeds her.

Merkel has been CDU chairwoman since 2000 and while her departure from the party post would not automatically result in her stepping down as German chancellor, the move is an acknowledgment of her increasingly vulnerable position.

German Chancellor and leader of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) Angela Merkel (4-R) and lead local CDU candidate Volker Bouffier (3-R) attend a CDU Hesse state election rally in Fulda, Germany, on October 25, 2018.

Both parties under Merkel's ruling coalition - the CDU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) - suffered heavy losses in a regional election over the weekend.

Merkel told the party that this will be her final parliamentary term as chancellor, the dpa news agency reported, citing unidentified party sources.

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With political weakness at home, Merkel's ability to lead within the European Union will be increasingly limited as German voters lose confidence in the coalition government, further sending the European Union into political disarray as the European bloc now wrangles Brexit with the United Kingdom and a spiralling budget crisis with the Italian government, as well as the continued rise of extremist far-right political grassroots campaigns that have been springing up throughout Europe.

Merkel has dragged the CDU to the political center in her years as leader, dropping military conscription, introducing benefits encouraging fathers to look after their young children, and abruptly accelerating the shutdown of Germany's nuclear power plants following Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011.

The governing coalition of Social Democrats (SPD), Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) has been in office for all of half a year. Any decline in Merkel's political stature is likely to be seen by investors as a loosening of the fiscal discipline that became a hallmark of her tenure, during which she demanded austerity and economic overhaul in return for bailouts in countries such as Greece.

Voters punished the governing parties in state elections Sunday in Hesse and two weeks ago in Bavaria.

"This would have been unthinkable in 2013, when she nearly won an outright majority in the Federal elections", he added.

"The situation for Merkel is grave", daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung judged late Sunday.

Her term as Chancellor was expected to run until 2021. The Social Democrats, or SPD, had its worst loss since 1946.

If Merkel can install her ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as party chief, that may buy her enough time to leave on her own terms.

His supporters argue that Spahn's appointment as party leader would mark a generational change and a true end of the Merkel era, which critics have associated with a lack of inner-party discourse and an embrace of issues traditionally more associated with liberal or left-wing parties.

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