After almost two decades as a political powerhouse, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced she will not be seeking re-election when her mandate finishes in 2021.
Crucially, they raise her chance of getting re-elected as party leader at the CDU's convention in December.
Political analysts in Germany have wondered whether Merkel might not serve out a full term if she's not leading her own party - a pairing that Merkel herself has said is crucial to being an effective chancellor. Merkel had been widely expected to run for re-election, although plummeting party poll numbers and disappointing election results suggested that she could face a challenge.
The Social Democrats' weak performance in regional elections this year in Hesse and Bavaria has added pressure on their national leadership to force Merkel into more concessions. "Angela Merkel knows best what to do, and now she has decided".
"The election was a success on all fronts", the AfD's Hesse leader, Joerg Meuthen, said.
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"But the news might not all be bad, as this could increase the chances Merkel seeks a top European Union job next year", he added. The SPD meanwhile, slipped to fifth place behind the eurosceptic, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Mrs Merkel's conservative CDU party now rules along with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP). Her fourth-term government took office only in March but has become notorious for squabbling. Instead, Merkel has forced the issue of succession with nearly three years to go on her fourth term, which seems more tailored to the need for the CDU to prepare a new candidate for chancellor, too.
She is understood to have said she intends to continue as Chancellor until 2021 when her current term finished.
Merkel has been CDU chairwoman since 2000 and giving up the role would start a race within the party to succeed her as chancellor. Merkel's party managed an unimpressive win, narrowly salvaging a majority for its regional governing coalition with the Greens in Hesse.
Earlier in the meeting, Mrs Merkel had told party members that she would not run again for the party leadership at a conference in December.
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Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) sustained heavy losses in the central state of Hesse, slumping to 28% - a 52-years-low and 10 percentage points lower than at the last state election in 2013.
"People thought elections can only be won on the far right", Green party co-leader Robert Habeck said.
Nahles declined to comment Monday on the reports that Merkel might step down as CDU leader.
Often hailed as the world's most powerful woman and Europe's de facto leader, a weakened Merkel has faced growing calls to spell out her succession plans after 13 years in power.
Today the AfD sits in the national Bundestag and every state assembly, having poached millions of votes from Merkel's big-party alliance, which has plummeted in the polls and suffered a string of defeats.
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