Germany’s Angela Merkel has said she will not run for chancellor in the next federal elections, as she announced her plans to step down in December as the leader of her Christian Democrats (CDU) party after 18 years.
The 64-year-old confirmed on Monday that she will continue her fourth and last term as chancellor until the 2021 polls, after which she would not contest for political positions.
“Firstly, at the next CDU party conference in December in Hamburg, I will not put myself forward again as candidate for the CDU chair,” she told reporters at her party headquarters in the capital, Berlin.
“Secondly, this fourth term is my last as German chancellor. At the federal election in 2021, I will not stand again as chancellor candidate, nor as a candidate for the Bundestag [federal parliament] and … I won’t seek any further political offices,” Merkel added.
The chancellor also said that she would not run for office should a snap election be held before 2021.
“Today it is time to begin a new chapter,” said Merkel, who revealed that she had made the decision to resign before the German parliament’s summer recess and had planned to announce it on the first week of November.
The developments come as her party and governing coalition partner, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), have been losing national support.
The CDU came first but bled support in a vote in the western state of Hesse on Sunday, the second electoral setback in as many weeks for Merkel’s conservative alliance.
Both parties also suffered heavy losses in the southeastern state of Bavaria earlier this month.
Standing down from the party chair would allow a new CDU chairperson to build a profile before the next national election, due in 2021.
Merkel’s favoured successor is thought to be party Secretary-General Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who, along with Health Minister Jens Spahn, announced her candidacy on Monday, Merkel confirmed.
However, the chancellor refused to back either candidate, saying she would not try to influence talks on who replaces her as party leader.
Merkel and her party have faced a growing backlash from Germany’s far right over migration and refugee policies that allowed hundreds of thousands of refugees to enter the country.
The Christian Social Union (CSU), Merkel’s Bavarian allies, have given her an ultimatum to improve results or they will pull the plug on the partnership.
Matthew Qvortrup, Merkel’s biographer, believes Merkel is stepping down as the party leader before she could be pushed out because of the “massive losses”.
“She’s resigning mainly because it’s becoming almost untenable for her to stay on,” he told Al Jazeera in an interview from Berlin. “She had to do something and this is the next card she can play.”
“She’s still relatively popular in the country as a whole – about almost 50 percent actually support her policies and support her – but internally in the CDU party, she needed to do something.”
Merkel’s weakness at home may limit her capacity to lead in the European Union at a time when the bloc is dealing with Britain’s departure from it, or Brexit, a budget crisis in Italy and the prospect of populist parties making gains in European Parliament elections next May.
She told reporters on Monday that Brexit and US-Russia tensions would continue to be her main focus for the remainder of her chancellorship and that not much would change on Eurozone issues as the German parliament will have to approve any major decisions.