German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepping down as party leader

German governing parties punished in state election

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.

Merkel also said she will seek re-election as head of her party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), and that she has no desire to serve as member of the German parliament (Bundestag), either.

Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, stepped down as leader of his party in February 2004 but remained chancellor until November of the following year.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Angela Merkel said Monday (Oct 29) she would step down as German chancellor at the end of her term in 2021 after a series of political crises and regional vote debacles rocked her fragile coalition. The center-left Social Democratic Party, or SPD, is also part of the coalition.

The behaviour of one of Germany's most senior Bavarian politicians - he even announced he would leave office a couple of times, without following through - seemed erratic to many, but Seehofer's deliberate provocations also seemed to show Merkel's dwindling political power.

"Firstly, at the next CDU party congress in December in Hamburg, I will not put myself forward again as candidate for the CDU chair", Merkel told reporters. The CDU lost ten percentage points in Hesse compared to 2013, a fortnight after losses on a similar scale in Bavaria.

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. The CSU also suffered a setback in Sunday's Hesse elections. The AfD party has representatives in all 16 states in Germany.

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Voters appear generally satisfied with Bouffier's government, the first coalition between the CDU and the traditionally left-leaning Greens to last a full parliamentary term, and an unexpectedly harmonious alliance.

The ruling parties' poor outcome, which follows similar results in Bavaria earlier this month, meant the government had to agree a new "roadmap" or give up the ghost, an SPD spokeswoman said. Chancellor Merkel, who has led the party since 2000, was due to stand again in December to be voted in as leader at a party conference.

At Merkel's initiative, she became party general secretary in February, the number two spot offering a leg-up towards taking the helm.

After speculation by media and politicians alike around why the chancellor made the announcement, Ms. Merkel said she had chose to signal that she had heard the message voters were sending.

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. But according to German public radio, Merkel wants to stay on even after handing over the party leadership.

The other risk for Merkel is that her SPD coalition partners come third in Hesse, which is home to financial hub Frankfurt.

"We are witnessing a continuation of the pattern in place ever since Merkel's mistakes in the 2015 migration crisis: the gradual but steady erosion of her political power", said Carsten Nickel, managing director at Teneo, a consultancy.

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