For German Chancellor Angela Merkel's opponents, defectors and even supporters, the announcement that she will not seek the chancellery in 2021 is not yet cause for either celebration or concern.
Angela Merkel's decision to step down as party leader even as she tries to keep her position as German chancellor highlights a trend bedeviling Europe's leaders: Centrist parties are fading as fringe parties gather pace. "At the federal election in 2021, I will not stand", she added.
Oettinger said that she enjoys trust "from Sophia to Lisbon, from Dublin to Athens". The arrival of large numbers of refugees and other migrants as Merkel made a decision to leave Germany's borders open in 2015 has proven divisive in her conservative ranks.
Merz led the party's parliamentary group when it was in opposition, a job that Merkel pushed him out of in 2002.
Merz joins two already-declared candidates: Merkel ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the CDU's general secretary; and Health Minister Jens Spahn, an advocate of a more right-wing approach.
While the "rise of the right" has made itself felt from Europe to the USA and, this week, in Brazil, that is a gross over-simplification of the challenges that Merkel has faced.
For a woman who has governed for so long that her name is sometimes used as shorthand for Germany itself, Merkel is a divisive figure.
"We are witnessing a continuation of the pattern in place ever since Merkel's mistakes in the 2015 migration crisis: the gradual but steady erosion of her political power", said Carsten Nickel, managing director at Teneo, a consultancy. Merkel said that the results in Hesse, along with similar results in Bavaria, were not the cause of her decision to step down, which she had made privately earlier this year. That would bring Merkel's chancellorship to a sudden and premature end.
"At the time when it was an enormous problem for Europe, she was the leader who stepped up to solve it". In any case, it's going to be a contest and probably an unseemly one at that, which just may give Merkel the breathing space needed to complete her legacy.
A shift to the right could strain Merkel's ruling coalition in other ways.
When Merkel took power in 2005, the German population still divided readily into "Ossies", who lived in the formerly communist territory of East Germany, and the much more prosperous "Wessies" of former West Germany.
Merkel's party and their Bavarian CSU allies have been at the receiving end of voter anger - be it stemming from the migrant influx or bickering within the coalition.
Whoever takes over as leader of the CDU will have little interest in calling new elections - indeed, the governing CDU and SPD leadership teams both understand the need to demonstrate at least competence to voters, and have six months in which to push scandal and argument into the shadows.
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