Merkel to give up leadership of party but remain chancellor

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Over the weekend, a key regional election in the German state of Hesse, which includes the population-heavy city of Frankfurt, saw Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU coalition suffer extreme losses in voter confidence, narrowly escaping defeat and sending a warning shot across the bow of Merkel allies that the populace is growing exhausted of political in-fighting and disenfranchised with the lack of policy results.

Angela Merkel told her conservative party on Monday that she is prepared to step down as its leader but remain Germany's chancellor following a pair of state election debacles, German media reported.

In the turbulent times of Trump, Brexit and multiple global crises, Merkel came to be hailed overseas as the new "leader of the free world", a label she was quick to reject as "absurd".

Sunday's election in the central state of Hesse saw both Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union and the center-left Social Democrats lose significant ground, while there were gains for both the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

Merkel, who is thought to be preparing a slow withdrawal from politics, had previously indicated she would stand for the position, potentially for the last time.

Her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder stepped down as leader of his party in 2004 but remained Chancellor.

But her views would change and on April 10, 2000, she was elected leader of the centre-right CDU party.

After 18 years as party chief, the move throws open the succession race for a post that has traditionally has been the springboard for CDU chancellors.

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The other big victor was the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered the Hesse regional assembly for the first time with 12.8 percent of the vote, the ZDF projection showed.

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

Ms Nahles is also feeling the heat from party members still disgruntled with her decision to join Ms Merkel instead of fulfilling an election promise to sit in opposition if they fail to win the federal vote.

'The election results show that people expect renewal from the CDU, ' conservative lawmaker Matern von Marschall told the Stuttgarter newspaper. However, the CDU's share of the vote fell by more than 11 points, to 27% - marking the worst result for the party since 1962.

The CDU's general secretary, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said the coalition needs to identify "three concrete projects for the coming months that we implement".

Several conservative party sources said that Friedrich Merz, a former parliamentary leader of Merkel's conservative alliance, was ready to put himself forward for the CDU chairmanship at the party's congress in December.

Merkel confirmed her plans at a press conference in Berlin on Monday.