Sunday 15 September 2019

Merkel's old foe favourite to take her place - poll

Friedrich Merz and Angela Merkel in 2002. Photo: Reuters
Friedrich Merz and Angela Merkel in 2002. Photo: Reuters

Justin Huggler

A former political rival of Angela Merkel who retired from politics nine years ago has emerged as an unlikely early front-runner to succeed her as leader of Germany's Christian Democrat party (CDU).

Among ordinary voters, 62-year-old Friedrich Merz emerged as the most popular candidate for the job as the party's new leader, in separate polls published yesterday.

The surprise result puts him ahead of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the party chairman, who was considered to be Ms Merkel's preferred successor, and Jens Spahn, the health minister and darling of the right-wing.

It makes troubling reading for Ms Merkel, who said this week she would step down as party leader in December but intended to stay on as Chancellor until 2021.

There is no love lost between Ms Merkel and Mr Merz.

His political career stalled after he lost a power struggle with her in 2002 and she may find it difficult to work with him.

After quitting politics, Mr Merz served on the boards of high-profile companies including BlackRock, the world's largest investment fund.

Analysts believe his business interests could make the Social Democrats, Ms Merkel's coalition partner, reluctant to serve alongside him.

But he has attracted endorsements from leading party figures and appears to have taken other candidates for the leadership by surprise.

A third of Germans want him as the new CDU leader, according to 'Spiegel' magazine, compared with 19pc for Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer and 6.2pc for Mr Spahn.

A poll for 'Bild' newspaper had a narrower lead for Merz (19pc), ahead of Kramp-Karrenbauer (16) and Spahn (8.2).

Announcing his return and indirectly criticising Ms Merkel, Mr Merz said: "She deserves respect and recognition for her achievements in 18 years at the head of the party but the CDU now has the opportunity to re-set."

Mrs Merkel's successor will be chosen by delegates at the CDU party conference in Hamburg in December.

Wolfgang Bosbach, a former CDU MP, said: "The new leader has to give impetus and momentum to a dispirited party. Friedrich Merz is the most likely to do this."

Bookmakers last night had Mr Merz and Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer as joint favourites to succeed Mrs Merkel, with Ladbrokes offering odds of 3-1.

But with the party's powerful regional associations yet to decide who to support, the race remains wide open. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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