Angela Merkel won't seek re-election as party leader, sources say

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The world was a different place in April 2000 when a young Angela Merkel toasted victory as she was elected leader of the Christian Democratic Union party. "We haven't heard about serious contenders to replace her".

Hesse's conservative governor, Volker Bouffier, told supporters that "the message this evening to the parties in the government in Berlin is clear: people want less argument, more objectivity, more solutions".

Merkel's weakness at home may limit her capacity to lead in the European Union at a time when the bloc is dealing with Brexit, a budget crisis in Italy and the prospect of populist parties making gains at European parliament elections next May. However, the CDU's share of the vote fell by more than 11 points, to 27% - marking the worst result for the party since 1962.

"No-one can say with 100 percent certainty how stable things will stay, what kind of dynamics will emerge" after the election, CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Thursday. The mass-circulation daily Bild also reported that she said she won't run again as party leader.

Angela Merkel's ruling coalition suffered heavy losses for the second time in as many weeks in a German state election that is likely to have national repercussions.

Its loss increases the instability of the CDU's grand coalition with the Social Democrat (CSU) party, with whom the CDU rules in Berlin. "The state of the government is unacceptable".

Merkel said she won't seek to return as her party's leader when the CDU meets in December - setting off speculation over who in her party might try to replace her.

After 18 years as party chief, the move throws open the succession race for a post that has traditionally has been the springboard for CDU chancellors.

And in both Bavaria and Hesse, the anti-immigrant Alternative For Germany (AfD) party vote surged, benefiting from voters unimpressed by Merkel's 2015 decision to allow more than one million asylum seekers to settle in Germany.

Her term as Chancellor was expected to run until 2021.

It had been widely assumed that this would be Mrs Merkel's final term as chancellor, but before the remarks reported by the dpa news agency she had not offered any confirmation. Her fourth-term government took office only in March but has become notorious for squabbling.

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).

Merkel's coalition was twice on the brink of collapse, once over immigration policy and then over a dispute about the fate of the domestic intelligence chief who was accused of harbouring far-right views.