Contenders to lead Merkel’s party seek January decision

BERLIN (AP) — The three main candidates to become the new head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party have agreed that the decision should be made in mid-January, a party official said on Saturday as leading contenders scrambled to end an increasingly bitter dispute.

The centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has been in leadership limbo since current chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who succeeded Merkel in 2018, announced in February that she wouldn’t run for chancellor next year and would relinquish her party role.

A special April convention to choose a successor had to be scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was put off until a regular party convention scheduled for December 4, which the party leadership in turn scrapped because virus infections have risen sharply again and Germany’s states have imposed new restrictions.

The cancellation brought into the open rifts between the contenders for the CDU leadership. Merkel, 66, has vowed not to seek a fifth term as chancellor, and the next party chair would be in position to run in the election to succeed her, although that isn’t automatic.

The party currently has a strong lead in polls.

The three candidates for the chairmanship of the Christian Democratic Union party, CDU, Norbert Roettgen, Armin Laschet, and Friedrich Merz. PHOTO: AP