Sunday, 18 November, 2018

German governing parties punished in state election

German SPD leader gives Merkel an ultimatum after state vote lossesMore German SPD leader gives Merkel an ultimatum after state vote lossesMore
Charlie Simmons | 29 October, 2018, 14:12

The German Chancellor told leaders of her Christian Democrats (CDU) that she will not seek re-election as party chairwoman, a senior party source told Reuters.

Mrs Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, stepped down as leader of his party in 2004 but remained chancellor.

Mrs Merkel has been CDU chairman since 2000 and has held the post of Chancellor for 13 years.

Merkel now governs Germany in a "grand coalition" of what traditionally have been the country's biggest parties - the CDU, Bavaria's CSU, and the Social Democrats.

Two weeks ago, two of the federal governing parties - the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-only sister to Merkel's CDU, and the Social Democrats - were battered in a state election in neighboring Bavaria.

At the weekend, the CDU performed poorly in the elections in the central German state of Hesse.

The center-left Social Democrats (SPD) fared even worse, winning just 20 percent of the vote, down from 30.7 percent and its worst result in the western state since 1946.

As the country's two traditionally dominant centrist parties flailed in Hesse, forces on either flank surged: The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the progressive Greens.

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Angela Merkel is reportedly set to give up the leadership of her party. 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.

In September past year, Merkel's CDU party won the general election but more than 13% of the voting population chose the right-wing nationalists AfD, which are anti-Islam and anti-refugee.

She argued that the three governing parties should instead, after the Hesse vote, prioritize a few policies and implement them as "an important signal" to Germans of the government's effectiveness.

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.

Carsten Nickel, managing director at political consultancy firm Teneo, said: "We are witnessing a continuation of the pattern in place ever since Merkel's mistakes in the 2015 migration crisis: the gradual but steady erosion of her political power". The party blamed its problems on federal-level politics, as SPD leader Andrea Nahles stated that the performance of the CDU/SPD grand coalition was one of the reasons for the crash and claimed that it was "clear that something has to change".

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.

Die Welt reporter Robin Alexander said the path could now be clear for Merkel's chosen heir, CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, to take the reins if no other credible candidate emerges by December.

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