Merkel tipped to say auf wiedersehen before her new term as chancellor ends
Angela Merkel does not want to complete her full term as German chancellor and is planning to resign before elections due in 2017, according to reports.
The German leader is aiming to become the first chancellor to leave of her own accord since 1949 and is interested in a new role as United Nations secretary-general, or European Council president, Der Spiegel magazine reported.
Such a move would come as a major shock in Germany, where Mrs Merkel remains exceptionally popular with voters after almost nine years in power, and be felt across Europe, where her position as the continent's most powerful leader is undisputed.
In last year's elections, Mrs Merkel pledged that she would serve a full term.
Her spokesman and party colleagues have denied speculation that she may leave office early.
But Der Spiegel, which is usually well informed about German politics, claims it is well known among her colleagues that she does not want a fourth term and may quit ahead of the 2017 elections.
"Just about everyone around her, in her party or the cabinet, is convinced she will voluntarily leave office," the magazine said, in a special report ahead of her 60th birthday this week.
She is said to be keen to avoid following the former chancellors Helmut Kohl, who suffered a humiliating defeat in 1998, and Konrad Adenauer, who was forced out in 1963 by a coup within his own party.
An arch-pragmatist, Mrs Merkel has no major policy or pet project to see through that would keep her in office. Mr Kohl was keen to see the introduction of the euro.
The roles of UN secretary-general and European Council president will both become available in 2017.
The appointment of a political figure of Mrs Merkel's stature could have a profound effect on either office and lend it considerably more authority on the world stage.
In particular, if Mrs Merkel became head of the body of national leaders that oversees the European Union, it could be seen as turning the job into a de facto president of the EU.
When the office was created in 2009, there was debate over how high profile it should be. Former British prime minister Tony Blair was, at one time, considered a candidate.
Suggestions that Mrs Merkel might want to succeed Ban Ki-moon as UN secretary-general first emerged in May, in a report in a Luxembourg newspaper that gained little attention, and was denied by Mrs Merkel's spokesman.
A successor for Mr Ban will be chosen in 2016. By convention, it is the turn of a European. When asked in a recent interview if she would like to be UN secretary-general in 2018, Mrs Merkel said: "That will certainly not happen."
If she does resign, her successor is widely expected to be Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to serve as German defence minister.
When Mrs Merkel appointed her last year it was seen as the anointing of her eventual successor, but Ms von der Leyen has been a controversial choice.
She has been both criticised and ridiculed for introducing army creches and flexible working hours to make the military more appealing as a career. (© Daily Telegraph, London)