German Chancellor Merkel to Step Down in 2021

29 October, 2018

Germany's Angela Merkel says she will not seek a fifth term as chancellor in 2021.

In an announcement on Monday, Merkel also said she would step down as leader of her conservative Christian Democratic Union, or CDU party, in December.

Merkel, who is 64, has served as chancellor since 2005. She has led the CDU since 2000. Her decision to step down as party leader came after the CDU suffered setbacks in local elections in recent weeks.

Merkel currently leads Germany as part of a "grand coalition" of the country's biggest political parties. These include the CDU and its partner in the southern state of Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, or CSU. The center-left Social Democratic Party, or SPD, is also part of the coalition. Her current coalition began its leadership in March after six months of difficult political negotiations.

Her party's latest election setback happened Sunday in the central state of Hesse. Merkel's CDU party narrowly finished in first place, while suffering an 11-point drop from the last election in 2013. The SPD also suffered losses.

Supporters of the Green party celebrate after the state election in the German state of Hesse in Wiesbaden, Germany, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (Uwe Anspach/dpa via AP)
Supporters of the Green party celebrate after the state election in the German state of Hesse in Wiesbaden, Germany, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (Uwe Anspach/dpa via AP)

Sunday's voting followed a state election in Bavaria two weeks ago, in which the SPD and CSU also suffered major setbacks.

The losses came as support has increased for Germany's Green Party as well as the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

Merkel told reporters in Berlin that, after leading the CDU for 18 years, she felt "today it is time to start a new chapter."

Merkel added that she would "not aim for any other political office."

Observers had widely expected that Merkel would not seek another term in office after 2021. But her announcement marked the first public confirmation of it.

Merkel has said in the past that she believed the chancellor should also serve as party leader. But on Monday, she said she had decided that splitting the two jobs may help strengthen the party. She said she would not interfere in the choice for her successor.

Merkel also said she hoped her decision to step down would permit "the government to concentrate its strength, finally, on governing well." She added: "People rightly demand that."

Growing anti-immigrant feelings in Germany have fueled support for the AfD in recent years.

In one of her most debated political decisions, Merkel approved the acceptance of more than one million refugees during Europe's migrant crisis in 2015. Many of the arrivals were fleeing fighting in Syria.

Her decision led to lasting tensions within the conservative movement. Merkel later accepted more restrictive migration policies.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

setback n. a problem that makes something happen later or slower than it should

chapter n. a period of time during which something happens in history or in someone's life

concentrate v. to put all your efforts into thinking very carefully about something