Angela Merkel has announced she will step down as German Chancellor at the end of 2021, marking the end of an era for European politics and world leadership.
Merkel’s preferred successor as party leader appears to be Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was appointed secretary general of the CDU back in February, although Merkel said she will “accept any democratic decision taken by my party”.
Merkel is currently serving her fourth term term in office, and told reporters in Berlin she will not seek any political post after her term ends, nor will she seek re-election as leader of the CDU, having led the party since 2000 and held the top job since 2005.
Her ongoing and long run as German Chancellor has seen her standing out on the world stage as one of few female leaders, a fact often made obvious when it comes to G20 photographs. Merkel was named TIME person of the year in 2015 and declared “Chancellor of the Free World”, after opening Germany’s doors to more than one million asylum seekers. She is also regularly dubbed the ‘world’s most powerful woman’.
But Merkel’s power in Germany has weakened in recent years, particularly after her party took a hammering at the 2017 General Election. The party has lost voters to the far-right AfD, as well as the left-leaning Greens. Merkel’s faced significant criticism over her refugee and migration policies.
“As chancellor and leader of the CDU I’m politically responsible for everything, for successes and for failures,” Merkel said during the press conference overnight.
“When people are telling us what they think of how the government was formed and what they think of our work during the first seven months of this parliament… then it is a clear signal that things can’t carry on as they are.
“The time has come to open a new chapter.”
She said that new chapter will be an “opening” and a chance for the party to reflect on itself. For Merkel, she said her two biggest issues over the next few years will be US-Russia relations and Brexit.
Kramp-Karrenbauer is believed to hold some similar views to Merkel and has this year been charged with revamping the party’s platform, which she recently noted was “From 2007, the year the first iPhone was released.”
She has previously said she has a “good, balanced relationship” with Merkel based on trust and respect, “Neither of us is known for explosions of emotion. We are interested in results and in consensus.”
Kramp-Karrenbauer is known to be a strong supporter of workers’ rights and the minimum wage, however she’s socially conservative and opposed to gay marriage.
A Kramp-Karrenbauer leadership would see a smooth transition of power, according to the BBC. But a number of other candidates also look set to run, including Merkel rival Friedrich Merz, who has previously promoted the idea of a German ‘lead culture’, and Jens Spahn, another outspoken critic of Merkel.