April 14, 2020 / 6:59 AM / 3 months ago

Merkel's party likely to delay leadership vote until December: CDU chief

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a media briefing about measures of the German government to avoid the further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 9, 2020. Markus Schreiber/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) will likely delay the election of a new leader until December due to the coronavirus, current leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

The new leader will be in pole position to run as chancellor in the next federal election as Merkel has said she will not seek a fifth term at the head of Europe’s biggest economy.

The party had already cancelled a special congress in April to pick a leader and Kramp-Karrenbauer was quoted by dpa news agency as saying it looked increasingly likely that the decision would not take place until a regular conference in December.

“My impression is that the nearer we get to the summer break with a possible special party conference, the less the need for a conference that will take place just a few weeks before the normal one,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told dpa.

So far, the top contenders to lead the party are former Merkel rival Friedrich Merz, popular on the right of the party, and Armin Laschet, the premier of Germany’s most populous state. Foreign policy expert Norbert Roettgen is an outsider.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said preparations for the December conference were going ahead.

“We hope of course the situation will develop in such a way that we can have the regular party conference in December in Stuttgart,” she told dpa.

Although the new CDU leader would be a favourite to run as chancellor in the next election, due by Oct. 2021, Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) has to agree and may even prefer its own leader, Markus Soeder, to be the candidate.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel’s protege, said in February she would step aside after a scandal over over a regional branch of the CDU breaking a post-war taboo and voting with the far-right to elect a state leader from a third party.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers

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