Merkel to give up Germany CDU chair after 18 years - party source

The German Chancellor told leaders of her Christian Democrats (CDU) that she will not seek re-election as party chairwoman, a senior party source told Reuters.

Merkel had previously indicated that she planned to seek another two-year term as leader of her Christian Democratic Union at a party congress in December, but appeared to be moving quickly to acknowledge pressure for renewal.

With her authority badly weakened by last September's inconclusive general election and ongoing squabbles in her unhappy coalition, the chancellor has faced mounting calls to prepare Germany for the post-Merkel era. There is no single obvious successor, but several potential contenders.

Angela Merkel told party top brass her mandate running to 2021 will be "her last term", a party source said.

The Social Democrats only reluctantly entered Merkel's fourth-term national government in March, and many are dismayed by what has happened since.

The CDU remained the largest party, but lost around 10 percentage points to score 28 percent of the vote, public broadcaster ARD reported, while junior federal government partners the Social Democrats (SPD) shed nearly 11 points to land on just 20 percent. The CSU also suffered a setback in Sunday's Hesse elections.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader told her party that despite stepping away from the leadership role, she wanted to remain chancellor.

Nahles is also feeling the heat from SPD members still disgruntled with their leaders' decision to join Merkel instead of fulfilling an election promise to sit in opposition if they fail to win the federal vote. But there is precedent for splitting the two jobs.

However, the SPD's historic losses could mean yet more pain for the chancellor's already troubled government coalition in Berlin. Helmut Schmidt, West Germany's chancellor from 1974 to 1982, never led the Social Democrats.

The CSU, led by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, lost 10 percent in comparison with the 2013 election and scored its worst result in 50 years, which was branded "painful" and "bitter" both by the CSU and CDU.

Merkel made the announcement on the day after Sunday's vote in Hesse in a speech to mark the 20th anniversary of the German Federal Government Commission for Culture and the Media (BKM). "And that demands respect".

A new CDU chair will be elected at the upcoming party conference in December, Deutsche Welle said.

While she may have gained the accolade of Time Person of the Year in 2015 for allowing over 1 million refugees into the country, not all voters have hailed this as a success.

She has since defended her decision, saying she would make the decision "the same way again".

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