Merkel ready to give up CDU leadership after slump in polls

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to give up the leadership of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at a party conference in December. Merkel has told party's executive committee that she is not intending to run for the party's chair again but wanted to remain as the chancellor. Her decision came after the CDU and its sister party CSU suffered heavy losses in recent regional polls in the states of Bavaria and Hesse.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is prepared to give up the leadership of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but she wants to remain chancellor, party sources told dpa on Monday.

Previously Merkel had said the two jobs belong together.

Merkel made the comments during a meeting of her party leadership to discuss her conservative bloc suffering a massive slump in two state parliamentary elections in as many weeks.

The former head of the conservative bloc in the Bundestag parliament, Friedrich Merz, has said that he will stand for the leadership, sources close to him told dpa.

CDU secretary general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is also considered a strong contender for the party's top post.

On Sunday, the CDU saw its support slump over 10 percentage points in the state of Hesse. On October 14, the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), saw a similar loss in its home state.

The CDU is due to elect a new leader at its party conference in December. It was previously expected that Merkel, who has chaired the party since 2000, would once again put herself forward.

The federal-level coalition parties, the conservative CDU/CSU bloc and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), all suffered humiliating slumps of around 10 percentage points in the state parliamentary elections in Hesse and Bavaria.

Merkel's willingness to give up her her party leadership role could increase pressure on SPD leader Andrea Nahles to do the same. Leading figures in both parties are set to meet at the weekend to discuss the election results.

Nahles has also called a meeting of the SPD leadership to set out a list of action points to revive the coalition's fortunes - and possibly also to decide at which point the SPD would pull out of the coalition in Berlin.

Such a move could force Merkel into a minority government or trigger a snap general election, a risky move for the ailing major parties.

The head of the SPD's youth wing, Kevin Kuehnert, has already called on the party leadership to make a quick decision on pulling out of the coalition, and to prepare for a snap election with a completely different manifesto from the one they fought the 2017 election on.

The result in Hesse was the CDU's worst in the state since 1966, crashing 11.3 percentage points to 27 per cent in preliminary results since the last poll in 2013; the SPD polled just 19.8 per cent, down 10.9 percentage points, its worst-ever result in Hesse.

The main winners were the Greens, who matched the SPD on 19.8 per cent, a rise of 8.7 points, and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which gained nine points to reach 13.1 per cent, thereby entering the state parliament for the first time.

The result means that the AfD is now represented in all of the country's 16 state parliaments, marking a major milestone for the 5-year-old party.

The free-market liberal Free Democrats (FDP) gained 2.5 points to 7.5 per cent, while the hard-left Die Linke (The Left) gained 1.1 points to 6.3 per cent.

The preliminary results would give the CDU 40 seats in the Hesse parliament, the SPD 29, the Greens also 29, the AfD 19, the FDP 11 and Die Linke nine. It is the first time that six parties have made it into the parliament.

A continuation of the CDU-Green coalition is possible, but with a wafer-thin majority. A more stable government will require three coalition partners, but the CDU has ruled out working with the AfD or Die Linke.

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