Germany's Angela Merkel confirms she will seek fourth term as Chancellor
Angela Merkel confirmed on Sunday that she will seek a fourth term as German Chancellor in next year's election, ending months of speculation.
"I thought about this for an endlessly long time. The decision (to run) for a fourth term is - after 11 years in office - anything but trivial," Merkel told a news conference after a meeting of senior members of her conservative Christian Democrats.
The 62-year-old conservative is widely seen as a stabilising force in Europe amid uncertainty after Britain's vote to leave the European Union and as a bastion of Western liberal values after the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president.
She has already served 11 years as chancellor of Europe's biggest economy.
Ms Merkel said she expected strong challenges from the left and right fringes of society as Germany has become more polarised.
"This election will be difficult - like no other election since the reunification" of west and east Germany in 1990, she said.
Ms Merkel said she also will run to be re-elected as chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union party when it holds its national convention next month. She faces no serious opposition within the party.
A physicist by training, Ms Merkel became chancellor in 2005. She is the first leader of a reunited Germany to have grown up under communism in the former East Germany.
Repeatedly named The World's Most Powerful Woman by Forbes magazine, Ms Merkel also has been suggested by some as the last powerful defender of liberal values in the west following Donald Trump's election as the next US president.
Nearly 60% of Germans surveyed in a recent poll said they wanted Ms Merkel to run for office again, said Manfred Guellner, head of the Forsa polling agency.
"In these difficult times, Merkel is a pillar of stability," Mr Guellner told The Associated Press. "People have the feeling she represents German interests well abroad."
Since becoming chancellor, she has dealt with several international crises, including the eurozone debt crisis in 2008-09 for which she brokered compromises among fractious European Union leaders.
She has been a strong advocate of efforts to combat climate change and in 2011 abruptly accelerated the shutdown of Germany's nuclear power plants following the meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima plant.
Unresolved diplomatic challenges include Europe's relationship with Russia, the future of Ukraine, autocratic developments in Turkey, the ongoing war in Syria and negotiations over Britain's exit from the European Union.
Ms Merkel also needs to brace herself for the populist wave sweeping both the US and Europe, where elections next year could see a far-right politician become president of France.
A date has not yet been set for the election but it will take place sometime between August 23 and October 22 next year.