German conservatives to start search for new leader next week

Kramp-Karrenbauer said that a decision on her successor would likely not be taken ahead of the party’s congress in December | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s handpicked successor announced earlier this week she was stepping down.

BERLIN — Germany’s outgoing conservative leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said she would « start the personnel selection process » to find her successor next week.

On Monday, Kramp-Karrenbauer announced she was to step down as leader of Germany’s governing Christian Democrats and would not be the party’s candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor — a decision that sent shockwaves across the German political landscape and beyond.

« I have invited those whose names are currently circulating for one-on-one interviews, » Kramp-Karrenbauer told Reuters on Wednesday. « At the moment, there are three names circulating in public. Whether more come forward, and what gender they are, we will see, » she added.

Although she didn’t name names, those being discussed as the most likely contenders are Health Minister Jens Spahn and long-time Merkel critic Friedrich Merz, who both lost against Kramp-Karrenbauer in a bid to become party leader in 2018. Another name said to be in the frame is North Rhine-Westphalia’s state premier Armin Laschet.

Spahn on Wednesday would not confirm that he was seeking the party leadership, but said he was « always … willing to take on responsibility. »

Kramp-Karrenbauer on Monday said that a decision on her successor would likely not be taken ahead of the party’s congress in December, but she told Reuters that a replacement could be named before the summer recess. Germany takes over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in July.

« We are now making a decision that is important for the CDU, » Kramp-Karrenbauer said, adding she believed the party chair and chancellor should be the same person.