Angela Merkel to step down as German chancellor in 2021

Ally of Germany's Merkel urges sister party leader to step down as well

German Chancellor Merkel's resignation as CDU party leader unlikely to reduce risk of early elections in 12-month outlook

German conservative politician Friedrich Merz has announced his bid to lead Christian Democratic Union (CDU), after Angela Merkel's decision to step down as party chair.

European Union chief Jean-Claude Juncker has backed Angela Merkel to remain Europe's most influential politician despite her plans to quit as CDU leader and German chancellor.

Merkel presented her decision to open Germany's borders in 2015 as an unavoidable necessity driven by the vast scale of the human tide, that year mostly fleeing the civil war in Syria.

Merkel's "center-right" CDU joined with the center-left SDP and the Christian Social Union (CSU) of Bavaria to form the current grand coalition government in Germany.

Calling her 13-year run as chancellor a "daily challenge and honor", Merkel said that she recognized that it was time to "start a new chapter" in her life.

"I was a personal fan of Angela Merkel for a long time, but I have to admit that she overstayed her position, and that has had the effect that people have been looking for alternatives". Her decision to step down as chairwoman comes after her party suffered its second regional election setback in as many weeks. But few observers believe she could hang on until the end of her term, speculating that new elections could be held as early as next year.

"We want to send a strong signal together today, namely that we are in a good and profitable co-existence between Africa and Europe", the chancellor said in front of entrepreneurs and African leaders.

In a press conference on Tuesday following joint talks in Berlin between President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Sisi praised the bilateral relations between the two countries, saying they represent "a diverse partnership in various fields". In the Hessian state elections of 28 October, the CDU's electoral share declined by 11.3% and that of the SPD by 10.9%. I see it as an attempt to give her own party and the country some time to enter into an important and very complex phase of transition. Merz, who announced his candidacy on Tuesday, has nursed a grudge against Merkel for driving him out as head of the CDU's parliamentary group in 2002.

The race has already begun for the party leadership that will be settled in December.

Alice Billon-Galland, a policy fellow with the European Leadership Network in London, says voters in Europe are supporting not only far-right parties but smaller "anti-establishment" parties from the left as well, such as the Greens, who did well in German voting. The party chairman would be in line to be chancellor if Merkel did resign.

The CDU had its worst showing in Hesse since 1966.

The veteran chancellor has come under intense pressure at home to stem the flow of migrants after the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers since 2015 deeply polarised Germany.

Another name touted by German media as a likely fourth is Armin Laschet, who is also the state premier of Germany's most populous region North Rhine-Westphalia.

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