Horst Seehofer, effectively Germany’s Home Secretary, last night announced his intentions to resign as Christian Social Union (CSU) leader to a group of members of his party, according to both Bavarian newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and news agency DPA. And he added he did not feel the need to hold onto office until the end of the legislative period in 2021. Mr Seehofer’s resignation from the CSU would end his 10-year-long leadership. He recently suffered a disappointing result at the key Bavarian elections.
On October 14, the CSU, the sister party of Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), suffered a 10.4 percent loss in the Bavarian parliament compared to the last elections five years ago.
Despite retaining the majority, this haemorrhaging of votes marked the end of an era for the CSU, historically an unrivalled political force in Bavaria.
The CSU saw seats going to the Greens and far-right Alternative for Germany, which gained respectively 8.9 percent and 10.2 percent from the 2013 election.
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Political observers in Germany noted Mr Seehofer’s decision to step down would hurt Ms Merkel much more than his party, as the move would require a cabinet reshuffle.
Ms Merkel’s support within the country and her own party hit a record low in October.
Then, the three government coalition parties (CSU, CDU and Social Democrats SPD) suffered an outstanding defeat at the local elections in Hesse, two weeks after the CSU was crushed in Bavaria, with the CDU and SPD losing respectively 11.3 and 10.9 percentage points.
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The lack of support showed to Ms Merkel by voters could turn her cabinet against her, with more left-leaning members of the SPD already demanding to leave the government coalition, and push ministers to not back her chosen replacement for Mr Seehofer.
This would force her to call for an early election, ending her leadership in Germany as she promised to step down as Chancellor after the end of the current mandate.
Ms Merkel confirmed she would not seek re-election on October 29, when she took responsibility for the CDU’s recent losses in local elections.
She added she will not run again as leader of CDU at the December party conference – leaving her in the position of being head of the country but no longer the leader of the ruling party.
The Chancellor and her interior minister had been at loggerheads since May, when Mr Seehofer demanded the end her Ms Merkel’s signature open door migration policy, which brought more than a million refugees in the country in 2015.
The interior minister demanded police border officers to be given the power of turning down immigrants at the border, but Ms Merkel strenuously refused as this policy would have breached the European Union’s immigration laws.