Volker Kauder, who has headed the parliamentary group of Merkel’s CDU and Bavarian allies CSU for 13 years, has been voted out. He lost a re-election battle to challenger Ralph Brinkhaus, a relative unknown.

The result of the vote (112-125) came as a shock for Kauder, who is a long-time ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

As reported by FRANCE 24, observers and opponents called the vote a slap in the face for the chancellor, who had campaigned hard for Kauder’s re-election.

“This is a revolt against Merkel,” wrote the centre-left SPD’s parliamentary group leader Thomas Oppermann on Twitter minutes after the result was published.

In a brief statement, Merkel thanked Kauder and congratulated Brinkhaus, adding that “this is an hour of democracy, in which there are also defeats and there’s nothing to gloss over”.

In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that reactions to the surprising vote came swiftly, with a number of opposition politicians voicing their views as to its significance.

Far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) parliamentary group leader Alice Weidel was quick to publish a large dose of schadenfreude, tweeting: “Merkel is on her last legs: Kauder voted out,” adding, “the vote now clearly shows that Merkel is losing her grip on the party.”

Alexander Lambsdorff, vice-chair of the liberal Free Democratic Party in parliament, tweeted that the vote signalled “The beginning of the end of the grand coalition. The chancellor’s authority within her own party has been officially destroyed”.

Green Party parliamentary group leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt, on the other hand, was more reserved as she congratulated Brinkhaus on his election and thanked Volker Kauder for his parliamentary cooperation.