Merkel to step down as party leader with authority hit by losses

She also said she would stand down as chancellor once the current legislative term ends in 2021. "We haven't heard about serious contenders to replace her".

The move means the party will have to find a new leader in December.

Despite her global standing, Merkel has no plans to seek a post in the European Commission after bowing out of German politics, the CDU source told AFP, despite speculation to that effect in Brussels.

Angela Merkel on Monday said she was stepping down as the leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union party.

To see Merkel step down now from party leadership is a turning point, but it might just be the best for her party.

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.

Angela Merkel has said she will not seek re-election as Germany's chancellor as well as CDU's party chair. The chancellor of Germany is usually-but not always-the leader of his or her party.

The behaviour of one of Germany's most senior Bavarian politicians - he even announced he would leave office a few times, without following through - seemed erratic to many, but Seehofer's deliberate provocations also seemed to show Merkel's dwindling political power. Her fourth-term government took office only in March but has become notorious for squabbling. In any case, she said the party's loss of support was too severe to brush off.

The SPD plunged to its worst result in decades to tie for second place with the up-and-coming ecologist Greens, each at 19.8 percent.

But the Greens, who also did well in Bavaria, said the regional votes had shown that the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, had been punished for trying to copy AfD rhetoric in a bid to poach far-right votes.

AfD leader Joerg Meuthen hailed Merkel's planned departure as "good news".

Die Welt reporter Robin Alexander said the path could now be clear for Merkel's chosen heir, CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, to take the reins if no other credible candidate emerges by December.

Such results would make various regional coalitions possible, with the Greens potentially joining parties to their right or left or even, if their results are exceptionally good, having a chance to make their local leader Tarek Al-Wazir - now Bouffier's deputy - the state governor.

The Social Democrats' leader, Andrea Nahles, on Sunday demanded a "clear, binding timetable" for implementing government projects before the federal coalition faces an already-agreed upon midterm review next fall.

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.

In an attempt to distance herself from Ms Merkel and her leadership style, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer has said the CDU will need to regain some passion if it wants to attract younger voters.

  • Eleanor Harrison