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Photo: Sean Gallup via Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Monday she would not be running for re-election in 2021 and that she would step down as party chair of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in December.

Why it matters: Long considered a bulwark of liberal democracy and a guiding force on the international stage, Merkel's longevity is unrivaled in the free world. In her 13 years in office, the other 18 G-20 countries (not including the EU) have cycled through a combined 70 heads of state. But Merkel's unraveling, as inconceivable as it may have once seemed, was a fate foretold.

The backdrop: The first hints of Merkel’s political demise came during last September's elections, when her center-right CDU/CSU alliance earned just 32.9% of the vote (down 8.6% from 2013) and failed to form a coalition government for nearly 6 months.

  • Merkel's decision to accept more than 1 million refugees during the 2015 migrant crisis angered many conservatives, at one point forcing a standoff with her own interior minister that threatened to blow up a 7-decade-strong alliance. Meanwhile, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), capitalizing on immigration fearsand establishment woes, entered the German parliament for the first time in 2017 with nearly 13% of the vote.
  • Regional elections this month in Bavaria and Hesse dealt fresh blows to the centrist parties inside Merkel's coalition, with both the Social Democrats and CDU/CSU suffering their worst losses in decades. AfD and the liberal Greens surged by about 9% in both states, suggesting that the strength of the German establishment — as we’ve seen all over the world in 2018 — is being chipped away by an ever-polarizing electorate.

The bottom line: As political commentator Nina Schick notes in an insightful Twitter thread, "[Merkel] has been Chancellor during the 2008 financial crash, the Eurozone crisis, the Arab Spring, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the migrant crisis, the Syrian war and Brexit. Her exit will have meaning for not only Germany, but for the EU and the world."

Go deeper: How Europe could face a conservative reckoning

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
5 mins ago - Economy & Business

How the tech stock selloff is hurting average Americans

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors holding the ultra-popular Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 index funds have been hard hit over the last two weeks as tech shares have been roiled by rising U.S. Treasury yields.

Why it matters: Even though the economy is growing and many U.S. stocks are performing well, most investors are seeing their wealth decline because major indexes no longer reflect the overall economy or even a broad swath of public companies — they reflect the performance of a few of the country's biggest companies.

30 mins ago - World

UN rights chief: At least 54 killed, 1,700 detained since Myanmar coup

A Feb. 7 protest in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

Police and military officers in Myanmar have killed at least 54 people during anti-coup protests, while "arbitrarily" detaining over 1,700 people, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

Why it matters: Protesters have demonstrating across Myanmar for nearly a month, demanding the restoration of democracy after the country's military leaders overthrew its democratically elected government on Feb. 1.

2 hours ago - Health

The danger of a fourth wave

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Anomalous Arkansas case data from Feb. 28 was not included in the calculated change; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.