Merkel’s CDU makes huge losses in Hesse election

Charlene Craig
October 29, 2018

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader told her party that despite stepping away from the leadership role, she wanted to remain chancellor.

"I will not be seeking any political post after my term ends", she told a news conference in Berlin.

Mekrel reportedly told CDU party leaders that she will step aside from the leadership election bid after the center-right party and the center-left SPD both took a hit in ballots in Hesse state at the weekend.

She also said she would not seek reelection as CDU leader in December.

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

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Ms Merkel's decision follows a drop in support in a state election in Hesse, the second such electoral setback for her conservative alliance.

Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and partial counting, gave the CDU 27-28% support and the centre-left Social Democrats about 20%.

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.

Merkel's 13 years as chancellor have piled up baggage from repeated compromise-laden "grand coalitions" with the SPD, as well as a fateful 2015 decision to keep Germany's borders open, ultimately allowing in more than one million migrants. The chancellor threw her weight behind her friend in Hesse and visited him four times on the campaign trail in recent weeks.

A number of potential successors to the Merkel throne have already been named in German media, with Die Welt including leading conservative Friedrich Merz - who Merkel ousted from a party leadership position in 2002 - and CDU Secretary-General Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The mass-circulation daily Bild also reported she said she won't run again as party leader.

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The Alternative for Germany, or AfD, got 13 percent of the vote. In the last election, in 2013, the parties scored 38.3%. The results were quite a disappointment for the CDU candidate and Ministers-President of Hesse, Volker Bouffier, a Merkel man who has stuck with her through thick and thin.

The government nearly collapsed twice over the summer, notably when Merkel restrained hardline interior minister Horst Seehofer's attempts to toughen up migrant policy.

She announced that the SPD would press Merkel's governing coalition to accept "a clear, binding timetable" for the government's projects.

Increasing numbers of SPD members have been calling for the party to quit government and lick its wounds in opposition, as it is presently polling below AfD nationwide, at 15 percent to the far-right's 16 percent.

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