Published: Mon, October 29, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Merkel to Give Up CDU Party Leadership in Dramatic Move

Merkel to Give Up CDU Party Leadership in Dramatic Move

Merkel's ruling Christian Democratic Union, now in a strained coalition with the German Social Democrat Party (SPD), took home just 27.2% of the electoral vote, a steep decline from the previous Hesse election's 38.3% in 2013; the SPD also saw a decline in take-home votes, falling from 30.7% to 19.6%, their worst election results in the region since 1946, and the left side of Merkel's ruling coalition saw themselves on equal footing with their nearest competition, the Greens, who also took 19.6%.

The CDU vote fell 11.3 per cent compared to the last elections in 2013. Meanwhile, the right-wing, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) tripled its vote share from 2013 and allowing it to enter parliament for the first time with 13.2% of the vote.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partners gave her conservatives until next year to deliver more policy results, threatening to end their alliance if there is no improvement after both parties suffered in a regional election on Sunday. A very poor performance in Hesse could embolden critics to push for the Social Democrats to leave the federal coalition, and endanger the job of party leader Andrea Nahles.

Her message was clear: the SPD needs to be able to show tangible results to its supporters next year or else the party's leaders will pull out of the coalition with Merkel.

Volker Bouffier, lead candidate for the German Christian Democrats (CDU), fills in his ballot paper in Hesse state elections on October 28, 2018 in Giessen, Germany.

Currently Merkel's contender is CDU party secretary general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, stepped down as leader of his centre-left Social Democrats in 2004 as his government struggled, but remained chancellor until he narrowly lost an election 18 months later.

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Still, the CDU seemed to have avoided a worst-case scenario in Hesse: The potential humiliation of losing control of the state, as left-leaning parties appeared to have fallen short of the backing needed to form a government on their own. Although the CDU has remained relatively united behind its leader in public, discontent has been building as the party's fortunes have sunk.

As a result, questions are being asked about the viability of the ruling coalition in Berlin.

And Mr. Bouffier, noting that his party fared better in the Hesse vote than it now does in polls nationally, seems keen to stay in power.

Monday's news came as a surprise to CDU party officials, who had expected Merkel to seek re-election as chairwoman at a party congress in Hamburg in early December.

"Even if Merkel were to be replaced and/or if a new government were to take power in Berlin, with or without new elections, it would not make a major difference once the dust has settled", Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg, said in a note.

A national election is not mandated until 2021, but the disappointing results for the coalition partners and a resignation as party leader by Merkel would likely hasten them.

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