Angela Merkel’s announcement yesterday marks the last chapter of her long domination of German politics. She is stepping down as the head of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union and says she won’t run for re-election. What’s less certain is whether she will see out her full term as chancellor, which might run until 2021, and whether the country’s political center can survive without her.
Merkel’s resignation as party head came in the wake of the CDU’s dismal showing in state elections in Hesse, long a CDU stronghold. The CDU’s share of the vote fell by 11 points, to 27 percent, just two weeks after voters in Bavaria delivered a similar rebuke to the CDU’s sister party, the Christian Social Union. The center-left Social Democratic Party — part of Merkel’s ruling grand coalition — performed just as badly, while opposition parties on both political extremes gained ground.