Angela Merkel announced yesterday that she would not be standing for re-election as both Chair of the Christian Democrats and as Chancellor of Germany, with plans to completely withdraw from politics.
Speaking to journalists she remarked it had been a “daily challenge and an honour” but that it was time to “start a new chapter”, stating that the current political climate in Germany wasn’t sustainable and that “the picture the government is sending out is unacceptable”.
VIDEO: Angela Merkel announces she will quit as German chancellor when her mandate ends in 2021, as she seeks to draw a line under a series of political crises that have rocked her fragile coalition pic.twitter.com/AkSwOJmF8y— AFP news agency (@AFP) October 30, 2018
Mrs Merkel, 64, has been the chairperson of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) for 18 years, and was elected Chancellor in 2005. The centre-right CDU will elect a new chair in December, while Merkel will continue her premiership until 2021, when the next General Election is due, or until a snap election before that.
Merkel’s authority has been slowly diminishing for the past few years. Germany’s relative prosperity compared to slower growing parts of the EU made it an ideal location for a large proportion of asylum seekers from the Middle East seeking safe haven in 2015, but some parts of the German population were unhappy with her decision. Others have been critical of her role as Chancellor, suggesting that the country’s economic improvement was down to the work of predecessor Gerhard Schroeder.
European markets were relatively unmoved with the news that Mrs Merkel had a timeline for her departure, with Germany’s DAX in Frankfurt gaining ground thanks to relaxed automotive legislation in China and not threatened by the eventual departure of the chancellor. The Euro fell briefly following the press conference, before perking up by the end of yesterday’s session and falling again at the start of today’s trading.
The limited market uncertainty isn’t a surprise. Bloomberg reported that during Mrs Merkel’s 13-year term unemployment has fallen significantly, Germany’s economic health improved despite the 2008/2009 Depression, and the country continued to be one of the world’s biggest manufacturers. Even the previously mentioned influx of asylum seekers only fractionally increased Germany’s unemployment figures; a testament to the growth of the country’s economy and the availability of work for skilled and unskilled alike.
There are four main contenders now for Angela Merkel’s position as the Chair of the CDU. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is arguably the favourite due to her close relationship with Merkel. She is currently the CDU Secretary General and has been dubbed ‘mini-Merkel’.
Others in the running are the Health Secretary Jens Spahn, a rising star Conservative within the CDU who previously contested the role of Secretary General against Kramp-Karrenbauer. The other two candidates are Armin Laschet, the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, and Friedrich Merz, the former parliamentary leader of the Christian Democratic Union’s alliance with the Christian Social Union.
As for the future election of a new Chancellor, the honour usually goes to the person that sits as the chair of Germany’s largest party, meaning that one of these four could be Germany’s next leader if the CDU retains its standings at the next election. Whilst Angela Merkel is on record as favouring this approach, however, it may be the case that Germany’s political dissatisfaction causes them to take a fresh look at their election process.