German Chancellor Angela Merkel will quit as head of her Christian Democratic party after nearly two decades, a person familiar with the matter said, a dramatic sign of her waning authority that will raise questions about her staying power as chancellor.
"Today it is time to begin a new chapter", she told reporters at her party headquarters.
An election Sunday in the central state of Hesse saw both the CDU and the Social Democrats lose significant ground amid gains for both the Green party and the far-right Alternative for Germany party.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center and other German officials sit prior to an ecumenical mass at the Berlin Cathedral during the German Unification Day public festival in Berlin, Germany, on October 3, 2018.
However, she said that she would like to remain chancellor, local media report.
If Merkel was to step down, it would allow a new CDU chairperson to build a profile before the next national election, in 2021. She has held the post since 2000.
Her decision comes after her party suffered heavy losses in regional elections that threatened the stability of the governing coalition.More news: Robert De Niro, target of pipe bomb, calls on people to vote
His CDU colleague Christian von Steffen was more blunt: "We need a meaningful programme with a clear path and new faces".
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.
The embattled leader of the SDP, Andrea Nahles, has given Merkel an ultimatum to produce the kind of policy results within a year that would start bringing back voters, threatening otherwise to end the alliance.
The CDU's General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer echoed Nahles' promises, stating that the coalition must identify "three concrete projects for the coming months that we implement".
"Firstly, at the next CDU party congress in December in Hamburg, I will not put myself forward again as candidate for the CDU chair", she told reporters, drawing the consequences of setbacks for the CDU in a regional vote on Sunday.
The CSU, led by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, lost 10 percent in comparison with the 2013 election and scored its worst result in 50 years, which was branded "painful" and "bitter" both by the CSU and CDU.