Angela Merkel has told her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) that she will step down as Germany's chancellor at the end of her current term in 2021 and will not seek reelection as a CDU lawmaker.
Speaking to journalists after a closed-door meeting of the CDU leadership in Berlin on October 29, Merkel also said she plans to give up leadership of her party in December, when the CDU is scheduled to elect a new party head.
Asked whether her announcement also applied for a snap election before 2021, Merkel said that she just made this clear and that she did not want to participate in any further speculation.
Merkel's statement came after backing for her conservative bloc plunged in two state parliamentary elections in two weeks.
Media reports, citing party sources, said that three people including Merkel's favored successor, CDU Secretary-General Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, had announced their candidacies for the party-head post.
The other two are Friedrich Merz, a former parliamentary leader of Merkel's conservative alliance, and Health Minister Jens Spahn.
Merkel acknowledged that Kramp-Karrenbauer and Spahn had launched bids for her post, but added she did not want to influence the election of her successor.
The CDU saw its support drop over 10 percent in the state of Hesse on October 28. On October 14, the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), suffered a similar loss in its home state.
Merkel has chaired the party since 2000 and has been Germany's leader since 2005.
Merkel's predecessor, social democrat Gerhard Schroeder, stepped down as leader of his SPD party in 2004 but remained chancellor.