German chancellor Angela Merkel has begun the end of her long political career. Saying it was “time to open a new chapter,” Merkel announced today (Oct. 29) that she would not run again for leadership of the Christian Democratic Union at the party’s next congress in December. She also confirmed that she would not run for chancellor in the 2021 general election, after 13 years at the country’s helm.
Merkel’s fourth term as chancellor, undertaken in a shaky coalition government, has been marred by one crisis after another, and amid growing calls for fresh party leadership. She first took the reins of the CDU in April 2000, becoming the first female leader of a German party. Eighteen years later, the crisis-battered party is bleeding voters to both left and right wing parties. It took a major hit in last September’s general election, and suffered big losses in Bavarian state elections earlier this month and again yesterday in Hesse, home to Germany’s financial hub Frankfurt.
At a press conference today, Merkel said the election result in Hesse was a bitter disappointment. She said that she would remain as chancellor until her term ends in 2021, but, as many already expected, confirmed that she would not run for office again. In the past, Merkel has insisted that the role of CDU leader and the job of chancellor go hand-in-hand. But it remains to be seen if she can serve out her term without having the power of the party chair role.
Merkel described her years as leader of Germany as “a daily honor.” She reminds herself daily that she “wasn’t born as a chancellor,” she added. She also dispelled rumors that she might pursue a job with the European Union. “I’m not worried that I won’t be able to think of something,” she said to the question of what she might do.
Two candidates have positioned themselves for the role of CDU leader ahead of the party’s December congress in Hamburg. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the party’s general secretary, is a close ally of Merkel. The other is health minister Jens Spahn. Merkel declined today to say whether she would back either.