Merkel's old rival to quit politics

A German state governor announced yesterday that he will step down and also leave his post as deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party – a move that takes a former rival of the German leader out of frontline politics.

In a surprise announcement, Roland Koch said he would quit as Governor of Hesse state, which includes Frankfurt, on 31 August. He will not seek re-election as deputy chairman of Ms Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats when his term expires in November.

Mr Koch, a trained lawyer, indicated that he planned to go into business in some capacity after taking "a few months to breathe". A sometimes polarising figure on his party's right, he was long viewed as a rival to Ms Merkel but has largely worked smoothly with her in recent years. The 52-year-old had been touted as a possible future finance minister.

Mr Koch had annoyed fellow members of the Christian Democrats recently by arguing that education and childcare should not be exempted from upcoming spending cuts. However, he said that his departure was not down to any dispute. He said yesterday that he had fulfilled his aim of anchoring a "long-term centre-right majority" in his state, which was once a centre-left stronghold.

"Politics is a fascinating part of my life, but politics is not my life," Mr Koch said at a televised news conference in Hesse's state capital, Wiesbaden.

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