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Her Christian Democratic Union party confirmed the search for its next leader would be postponed because the “pandemic situation” means a planned convention in December could not take place. The announcement came after the German Chancellor warned her party Germany is on the brink of losing control of its fight against COVID-19 and the “situation is threatening” and “every day counts”. In a private meeting, she told CDU members their country faces some “very, very difficult months ahead” as the disease rides roughshod across Europe.
Paul Ziemiak, the CDU’s general secretary, said he hopes to reorganise the convention in either late December or January in order for delegates to elect a new leader.
A special April convention for about 1,000 delegates to choose the new CDU leader fell victim to the the first phase of the COVID-19 crisis.
The party put off the decision until a regular convention in Stuttgart on December 4.
Current party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced in February that she would not run for chancellor in the next federal election, which is expected to be held next year, and would also quit the leadership.
An online vote to select a new candidate is not legally possible in Germany, but the CDU was said to be pushing for this policy to be scrapped.
Whoever secures the CDU’s leadership will be favourite to replace Mrs Merkel as the next German chancellor.
Friedrich Merz, a former leader of the CDU’s parliamentary party, Armin Laschet, the governor of the North Rhine-Westphalia state, and Norbert Roetgen, chair of the Bundestag’s influential foreign affairs committee, are the three main contenders.
Polling suggests that Mr Merz, who narrowly lost out to Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer in 2018, is favourite with the CDU’s grassroots supporters.
He slammed the party’s decision to delay the ballot, insisting it was a “decision against the CDU rank and file”.
The CDU’s poll ratings have been bolstered by Mrs Merkel’s handling of the pandemic, despite infections rates starting to soar as part of a second wave of the virus in Europe.
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Helge Braun, the German Chancellor’s chief of staff, has warned of a worrying rise in infection rates.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s centre for disease prevention and control, reported almost 9,000 new cases on Monday.
According to the officials figures, infections have doubled in the last week and deaths are steadily increasing.
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Germany has now reported more than 10,000 coronavirus-related deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Mrs Merkel has pleaded with citizens to stay at home as much as possible and limit their social contacts while outside.
“What winter will be, what our Christmas will be, will be decided in the days and weeks to come,” she warned last weekend.
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