Angela Merkel ready to step down as party leader, Germany press reports

Merkel announced that she will not seek re-election neither as party chairwoman nor as chancellor, and that she will withdraw from political office once her terms end.

"The CDU faces a turning point", Mike Mohring, a regional party leader from eastern Germany, told Welt television. Her decision came after poor showings in two regional elections and opens the door wide open for a leadership competition as the centrist German parties fight to keep their relevance in a highly fragmented political landscape.

Hesse's conservative governor, Volker Bouffier, complains that "the election campaign has been completely overshadowed by Berlin".

But at home, even a change-averse electorate has started to grow tired of the leader dubbed "Mutti" (Mummy) and the cautious and glacial style of consensus politics her coalition government is now associated with.

Merkel now governs Germany in a "grand coalition" of what traditionally have been the country's biggest parties - the CDU, its Bavaria-only sister, the Christian Social Union, and the Social Democrats. She had won four consecutive terms.

Government figures Friedrich Merz, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Jens Spahn and Armin Laschet could be the next CDU party leaders. "Secondly, this fourth term is my last as German chancellor - at the federal election in 2021, I will not stand again as chancellor candidate".

But she made clear that she wanted to remain as chancellor, a position she has held since 2005, CNN affiliate RTL reported, citing party sources. Capturing only 33 per cent of the vote, Ms. Merkel's CDU spent nearly six months trying to cobble together a coalition, eventually resorting to the vastly diminished SPD to form a government.

Often hailed as the world's most powerful woman and Europe's de facto leader, a weakened Merkel has faced growing calls to spell out her succession plans after 13 years in power.

Her Catholic, western German background contrasts with Ms Merkel's Protestant, eastern roots.

In October, she addressed the idea of a post-Merkel era, saying that attempts by Germany's outgoing leaders to anoint a successor "have always completely failed, and it's probably better that way".

She argued that the three governing parties should instead, after the Hesse vote, prioritize a few policies and implement them as "an important signal" to Germans of the government's effectiveness.

The government has been through two major crises, first over whether to turn back small numbers of migrants at the German-Austrian border and then over what to do with the head of Germany's domestic intelligence service after he was accused of downplaying far-right violence against migrants.

"Angela Merkel knows quite clearly that she is living through the last months or through the a year ago of her chancellorship", Werner Patzelt, a politics professor at the Technical University in Dresden, told NBC News.

Elected state premier of Germany's most populous region North Rhine-Westphalia just last year, 57-year-old Armin Laschet could emerge as the compromise candidate to heal divisions that have torn at the CDU under Merkel.

  • Rogelio Becker