BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said on Monday that she would give up the leadership of her conservative party, the clearest sign yet that the woman who was once Europe’s most powerful leader is preparing her long-expected departure from office.
The decision by Ms. Merkel, who has led the Christian Democratic Union for 18 years and the country for more than 13, indicates that she will not run again as chancellor. She had long insisted that the post of chancellor and party chief go hand in hand.
Her announcement, in a meeting of conservative leaders, follows two disastrous results in regional elections that saw her party and its coalition partners slump to near-record lows. Ms. Merkel’s coalition government, which took six months to cobble together, has long lost its majority in opinion polls.
On Sunday, the chancellor’s conservatives won just 27 percent of the vote in the central state of Hesse, down from 38 percent five years ago — their worst showing in the state since 1966. Two weeks earlier, her conservative allies in Bavaria suffered a similar blow.