Merkel to give up Germany CDU chair after 18 years - party source

Merkel Faces Test of Her Authority in German Regional Vote

Merkel Faces Test of Her Authority in German Regional Vote

Angela Merkel is stepping down as the leader of her political party, but will stay on as Germany's chancellor until the end of her term.

Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in Europe, is standing down as the chairperson of her Christian Democratic Union party, a position she has held for 18 years, according to German media reports.

News agency dpa cited unidentified party sources who said that she is prepared to step down as party leader but remain as chancellor for now. It is the latest in a line of weak performances for parties in Merkel's ruling coalition, signalling a broader shift in German politics. The environmentalists surged to 19.5 percent of the vote, up 8 percentage points since the last election five years ago and running neck-and-neck with the SPD. She insisted, however, that she would remain chancellor.

BERLIN-Germany's governing parties lost significant support in a state election Sunday that was marked by discontent with infighting in Chancellor Angela Merkel's national government and prompted calls for her administration to get its act together quickly.

Propelled by the backlash to Merkel's migration policy into the federal Bundestag past year, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) is now represented in all 16 of Germany's state legislatures, after Hessian voters handed it a 12-percent score.

She also faces pressure from her Social Democrat (SPD) junior coalition partners, who have also bled support in Hesse and are under pressure to rethink their alliance with Merkel.

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"Firstly, at the next CDU party congress in December in Hamburg, I will not put myself forward again as candidate for the CDU chair", she told reporters, drawing the consequences of setbacks for the CDU in a regional vote on Sunday.

SPD chief Andrea Nahles said on Monday her centre-left party, Germany's oldest, had failed "to break free from the government" and stand out in its right.

Merkel has dragged the CDU to the political center in her years as leader, dropping military conscription, introducing benefits encouraging fathers to look after their young children, and abruptly accelerating the shutdown of Germany's nuclear power plants following Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Merkel's fourth and probably final government has already come close to collapsing twice. That's two-thirds of the party's 2013 result and its worst showing since 1946.

'The election results show that people expect renewal from the CDU, ' conservative lawmaker Matern von Marschall told the Stuttgarter newspaper.

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

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