German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday that she would not seek re-election when her term expires in 2021.
Merkel, who has been Chancellor since 2005, made the announcement during a news conference today in Berlin.
“It is time today for me to start a new chapter,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.
“This fourth term is my last term as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. In the next Bundestag election in 2021, I will not run again as Chancellor. I will not run for the German Bundestag any more, and I do not want any other political office.”
Merkel told reporters that being Chancellor has been a “very challenging and fulfilling task.”
Her decision appears to mark the beginning of the end of her 13-year dominance of European politics.
Merkel also announced on Monday that she would stand down from the chairmanship of her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party after 18 years in the post.
She said that she’s known since the summer break that she no longer wanted to be the CDU chairman and that during the party’s conference in December she will not run again for the position.
The announcement is a sign of Merkel’s weakened power within her own party, and waning popularity in the country.
Both parties under Merkel’s ruling coalition — the CDU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) — suffered heavy losses in a regional election over the weekend.
While the CDU remained the largest party in the election, which was held in the central state of Hesse, its vote was down 10% from the previous election.
Second blow to Merkel’s fragile government
This weekend’s election is a second blow to Merkel’s fragile “grand coalition” government. On October 14, the Christian Social Union, or CSU — the Bavarian sister party to the CDU — lost its majority in the Bavarian state parliament.
The CSU has dominated politics in the state since the end of World War II, ruling for all but three years over the course of nearly seven decades.
Speaking on October 15, Merkel admitted that voters had lost trust in the government and that it was her job to “make sure that trust is won back.”
“I will work on that with as much vigor as I can,” she added.
Bavaria bore the brunt of the 2015 refugee crisis; at its peak, thousands of asylum seekers were crossing into the state every day. Since then, both Merkel and her CSU allies have been criticized for their management of the influx.