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Angela Merkel says she will not seek re-election as German Chancellor

Posted October 29, 2018 6:18 a.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2018 11:23 a.m. EDT

— German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday that she would not seek re-election when her term expires in 2021.

Merkel, who has been Chancellor since 2005, made the announcement during a news conference today in Berlin.

"It is time today for me to start a new chapter," Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

"This fourth term is my last term as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. In the next Bundestag election in 2021, I will not run again as Chancellor. I will not run for the German Bundestag any more, and I do not want any other political office."

Merkel told reporters that being Chancellor has been a "very challenging and fulfilling task."

Merkel's decision appears to mark the beginning of the end of her 13-year dominance of European politics.

Merkel also announced on Monday that she would stand down from the chairmanship of her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party after 18 years in the post.

She said that she's known since the summer break that she no longer wanted to be the CDU chairman and that during the party's conference in December she will not run again for the position.

The announcement is a sign of Merkel's weakened power within her own party, and waning popularity in the country.

Both parties under Merkel's ruling coalition -- the CDU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) -- suffered heavy losses in a regional election over the weekend.

While the CDU remained the largest party in the election, which was held in the central state of Hesse, its vote was down 10% from the previous election.

Loss of voters trust

This weekend's election was a second blow to Merkel's fragile "grand coalition" government. On October 14, the Christian Social Union, or CSU -- the Bavarian sister party to the CDU -- lost its majority in the Bavarian state parliament.

The CSU has dominated politics in the state since the end of World War II, ruling for all but three years over the course of nearly seven decades.

Speaking on October 15, Merkel admitted that voters had lost trust in the government.

Bavaria bore the brunt of the 2015 refugee crisis; at its peak, thousands of asylum seekers were crossing into the state every day. Since then, both Merkel and her CSU allies have been criticized for their management of the influx.

What this means for Germany and beyond

Leopold Traugott, policy analyst at think tank Open Europe, told CNN that Merkel was a stable leader in a "gloabl politics that's become increasingly disorderly."

He said that while Germany needs to look for a new leading figure, allies and opponents abroad "will have to prepare for a different, perhaps more difficult partner in Berlin."

"Germany will become even more inward-looking in the near future -- a trend we have seen since last year's general election already," Traugott said.

"This means there will be less German involvement in key European debates, but also on global issues the country is less likely to take a leading role.

"It will be particularly painful for French president Emmanuel Macron, who was hoping for Merkel's support in his plans for wide-reaching European reform. It seems ever less likely he will receive this support from Berlin."