Germany's conservative leader Armin Laschet has said he is ready to stand down as head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) less than two weeks after an election that saw the party lose to the rival Social Democrats.
The 60-year-old said he would be asking for a special congress of the CDU to determine the "future and reorganisation" of the party leadership.
Laschet has taken personal responsibility for the conservatives' worst ever electoral result (24,1%) in modern German history.
The announcement, which many observers expected, came as the Social Democrats -- who finished top in the September 26 vote -- decided to continue preliminary talks next week with the Greens and the free-market FDP with a view to forming a three-party coalition.
"We are going to quickly tackle the question of the new CDU team, of its president and including the federal executive," Armin Laschet said in Berlin, less than a year since taking over the helm of Angela Merkel's party.
"Since Angela Merkel's withdrawal from the party presidency we've had an incessant debate" about the future leadership, he added.
According to the Bild newspaper, the extraordinary CDU congress could take place in the first fortnight of December in Dresden.