Merkel will not seek re-election as CDU party leader

Merkel Faces Test of Her Authority in German Regional Vote

Merkel Faces Test of Her Authority in German Regional Vote

"We haven't heard about serious contenders to replace her".

Succession race Merkel standing down from the party chair will allow a new CDU chairman or chairwoman to build a profile before the next national election.

It is still unclear what this means for Merkel's leadership. But its share of the vote plummeted to about 27 percent, its poorest result in half a century in the wealthy state and a far cry from the 38 percent it achieved in the last state election just five years ago.

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.

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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.

The Social Democrats' leader, Andrea Nahles, demanded Sunday a "clear, binding timetable" for implementing government projects before the coalition faces an already-agreed midterm review next fall. Merkel's favoured successor is CDU party secretary general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and partial counting, gave the CDU 27-28 per cent support and the centre-left Social Democrats almost 20 per cent.

Voters have appeared generally satisfied with Bouffier's outgoing state government.

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The exit poll for broadcaster ARD showed only 13 percent of CDU voters believed Merkel had helped the party in Hesse, down from 70 percent at the last state election, reflecting voter anger at her decision in 2015 to welcome nearly one million, mainly Muslim asylum seekers.

She intends to remain as chancellor until 2021, until the parliamentary term runs out, the Associated Press cited her saying.

It had been widely assumed that this would be Mrs Merkel's final term as chancellor, but before the remarks reported by the dpa news agency she had not offered any confirmation. In the past Merkel has always said that the position of chancellor and the head of the party should be held by one person. Her fourth-term government took office only in March but has become notorious for squabbling.

But it was her boldest move, keeping open German borders in 2015 to a mass influx of refugees, that may have planted the seeds of her downfall.

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Ms Merkel's coalition was twice on the brink of collapse, once over immigration policy and then over a dispute about the fate of the domestic intelligence chief who was accused of harbouring far-right views.

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