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As Merkel Prepares to Step Back, Here’s Who Might Replace Her

30 October 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she will step down from leading the Christian Democratic Union and won't seek re-election, rattling the political scene in Germany and setting the stage for her to be eventually replaced in her country's highest office.

Merkel had earlier informed her centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) that she would not stand again to be the party chairman at a congress in December to make way for new leadership.

News agency dpa cited unidentified party sources as saying Merkel told an ongoing CDU leadership meeting that she's prepared to step down as party leader but intends to remain chancellor.

"She was genuinely sad and not at all bitter and asked that the discussion about her succession be conducted in a kind manner", the source said, adding that Merkel's words were greeted with a standing ovation.

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However she has come under mounting pressure in recent months, culminating in a disastrous result for Germany's ruling parties in state elections this weekend. The CSU also suffered a setback in Sunday's Hesse elections.

Ms Merkel said she made the decision before the summer parliamentary recess and had planned the announcement for next week.

The repeated electoral beatings have hurt Merkel and severely damaged the ruling coalition as the SPD blames chancellor's policies for its slump in the ballot box.

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.

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Potential successors include Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, General Secretary of the CDU; Jens Spahn, Health Minister; Armin Laschet, Prime Minister of North-Rhine-Westphalia; Julia Klöckner, Agriculture Minister; Daniel Günther, Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein and Friedrich Merz, former Merkel rival, now inactive. While she will remain as chancellor until 2021, she will step down as party head this year.

The chancellor has indicated that she will seek another two-year term as CDU leader in December. In projections throughout the evening, the outgoing CDU-Green coalition was forecast to win 61 seats out of 121, securing a razor-thin majority. According to "multiple media reports", Merkel announced her intention to retire as the chief of the CDU. The backlash, especially in less prosperous eastern Germany, was swift, giving rise to the AfD, which many Germans condemn as a neo-fascist party.

Observers see Merkel decision as a further sign of her dwindling political power. This rout comes just two weeks after Bavaria's state election, which was also a disappointing result for the conservative Christian Social Union, the CDU's Bavarian sister party.

Merkel said she wouldn't interfere in the choice of her successor.

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As Merkel Prepares to Step Back, Here’s Who Might Replace Her