German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats will convene a special congress on April 25 to pick a new leader, participants at a meeting of top CDU officials said yesterday as they sought to resolve a crisis shaking the party's hold on power.
The meeting took on added urgency after voters handed the CDU its worst result in a state vote in Hamburg on Sunday, punishing it for flirting with the far-right in an eastern state and driving it into a messy leadership battle.
The April 25 congress will be held in the German capital Berlin, the participants said.
The CDU succession debate was blown wide open earlier this month when party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer unexpectedly said she would no longer seek to succeed her mentor Ms Merkel.
'Bild' dubbed the Hamburg result a "debacle" for the CDU, whose faltering leadership has raised questions over the future course of Europe's largest economy.
The CDU slipped into third place in Hamburg, scoring just 11.2pc in the northern port city - behind the Social Democrats (SPD), for whom the city is a stronghold, and the Greens.
"The dismal result adds to the pressure on the party to resolve the leadership crisis fast," Berenberg bank analyst Holger Schmieding said.
Ms Merkel, chancellor for almost 15 years, has said she will not run in the next federal election, due by October 2021.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer's decision to give up her ambition of succeeding Ms Merkel came after an eastern branch of the CDU defied the national party and voted with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) to install a state premier from a third party. That broke a post-World War II consensus among established parties of shunning the far-right.