German SPD leader gives Merkel an ultimatum after state vote losses

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces another major blow as Germans go to the polls in Hesse

She now governs Germany in a "grand coalition" of what traditionally have been the country's biggest parties - the CDU, Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union, and the center-left Social Democrats.

The chancellor told a leadership meeting of her Christian Democratic Union on Monday that she won't run again as party chairwoman at a convention in December, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the meeting was closed.

A senior CDU member told Reuters that party leaders wanted to discuss the possibility of Ms Merkel reversing her decision to seek re-election as party chairwoman in December.

This position has allowed the so-called grand coalition which presently rules Germany, an alliance between the main centre-right CDU and main centre-left SPD, from parties which should, in theory, be opposed on government but are united in keeping other voices out of power. Despite her party's historically poor result, she may be heaving a huge sigh of relief, too. The party was on a par with the Greens, also on 19.6 percent.

She has been chair since 2000, and Germany's leader since 2005.

Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, stepped down as leader of his center-left Social Democrats in 2004 as his government struggled, but remained chancellor. Confirming polls' predictions, the far-right party, buoyed by a backlash against the arrival of more than 1 million refugees in Germany after 2015, is poised to enter the Hesse parliament, the last of Germany's 16 state parliaments from which it was absent.

Ms Nahles is also feeling the heat from party members still disgruntled with her decision to join Ms Merkel instead of fulfilling an election promise to sit in opposition if they fail to win the federal vote.

However, the SPD's historic losses could mean yet more pain for the chancellor's already troubled government coalition in Berlin.

The unstable government nearly collapsed twice over the summer, notably when Merkel restrained hardline Interior Minister Horst Seehofer's attempts to toughen up migrant policy.

Angela Merkel's junior coalition partners threatened to quit her governing coalition, blaming bitter infighting in Berlin for the massive losses.

"The election results show that people expect renewal from the CDU", conservative lawmaker Matern von Marschall told the Stuttgarter newspaper. 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.

Currently Merkel's contender is CDU party secretary general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The reports have followed the CDU/CSU fiasco in the regional elections in Bavaria and Hesse.

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