German SPD leader gives Merkel an ultimatum after state vote losses

Minnie Murray
October 29, 2018

National news agency DPA said she planned to remain chancellor even as she gives up the top party job.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed on Monday she would not seek re-election as chairwoman of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in December, heralding the beginning of the end of her 13-year era of dominance in European politics.

Merkel, 64, has been chairwoman of her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) since 2000 and chancellor since 2005. The dismal performance poured further scorn over Merkel's authority as a leader of the CDU.

Two weeks ago, two of the parties in Merkel's federal "grand coalition" of what have traditionally been Germany's strongest political forces - the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-only sister to Merkel's CDU, and the Social Democrats - were battered in a state election in neighbouring Bavaria.

Possible contenders include Health Minister Jens Spahn, who has publicly criticized her open-doors refugee policy and is championed by the CDU's social conservatives; Ralph Brinkhaus, a fiscal hawk who unexpectedly ousted Merkel's longtime parliamentary caucus leader; and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, her hand-picked party general secretary who's often cited as her most likely successor.

The CDU remained the largest party, but lost around 10 percentage points to score 28 percent of the vote, public broadcaster ARD reported, while junior federal government partners the Social Democrats (SPD) shed nearly 11 points to land on just 20 percent.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center and other German officials sit prior to an ecumenical mass at the Berlin Cathedral during the German Unification Day public festival in Berlin, Germany, on October 3, 2018.

When Kohl became embroiled in a campaign finance scandal in 1999, Merkel openly urged her party to drop the self-declared "old warhorse". The CSU also suffered a setback in Sunday's Hesse elections.

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

After 13 years with Merkel at the helm, a lot of them in coalition with the SPD, many Germans are exhausted of government by carefully-crafted compromise, calling instead for clear direction on pressing policy issues like migration, security, reform of the European Union and climate change.

A new CDU chair will be elected at the upcoming party conference in December, Deutsche Welle said.

She has since defended her decision, saying she would make the decision "the same way again".

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