After nearly two decades as a political powerhouse, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced she will not be seeking re-election when her mandate finishes in 2021.
According to The Guardian, Merkel’s decision to step down comes in response to the recent spate of defeats her party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), suffered in regional elections in both Hesse and Bavaria, which Merkel saw as a “clear signal that things can’t go on as they are.”
“Merkel said national politics had had a regrettable negative influence on the results in Hesse, calling them ‘disappointing and bitter,'” reports The Guardian. “The CDU slumped to 27% in preliminary results in the state, the party’s worst showing in the state since 1966 and a drop of 11 points since Hesse last went to the polls in 2013.”
Merkel has served as the CDU party leader since 2000; she will step down from that position at the party’s conference this December, leaving her subordinates a difficult task ahead in the selection of their next leader; no telling if CDU’s popularity in the country will have improved by then.
Merkel’s rumored successor as of now is CDU secretary general, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who has already announced her candidacy. Friedrich Merz, a former parliamentary leader of the CDU/CSU alliance, has also announced his candidacy.
The more liberal FDP party headed by Christian Lindner has welcomed the news of Merkel’s exit and was among the first to demand her resignation, calling for “a real new beginning in Germany.” The Guardian profiled the developing political tensions surrounding Merkel’s decision:
After news of Merkel’s decision not to stand for re-election as leader of the CDU, [Andrea] Nahles ruled out a change in leadership in her party. ‘A personnel configuration is not being discussed in the SPD,’ she told journalists on Monday morning.
The euro fell to session lows on Monday. Merkel’s weakness at home may limit her capacity to lead in the EU 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.
Other political experts say that Merkel has become a “lame duck” and may be out sooner than 2021. “Angela Merkel knows quite clearly that she is living through the last months or through the last year of her chancellorship,” Werner Patzelt, a politics professor at the Technical University in Dresden, told NBC News.
Merkel’s sinking popularity began in 2015 when her “open door policy” on immigration permitted over 1 million migrants and refugees, predominantly from the Islamic world, to enter the country. By 2016, German citizens were already feeling alarming effects of the policy, culminating in a spike in rapes and the Berlin Christmas market truck attack that killed 12 people.