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Angela Merkel announced in 2017 she would step down ahead of the next round of federal elections after over 15 years at the helm of Germany. The Chancellor cited growing criticism towards her leadership as well as poor electoral performance, anointing ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as her preferred successor. But with Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer being forced out of the chairmanship of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Mrs Merkel is in need of a new heir to take over her legacy.
The German leader sparked speculation an announcement may be on the way after she paid a visit to Markus Söder, the leader of the CDU’s sister party in Bavaria.
DW News chief correspondent Melinda Crane said: “This is the same politician that during the election campaign of 2018 made it clear that he would prefer Chancellor Merkel not visit him but he was happy to receive a visit from the much-more conservative Chancellor of Austria.
“This was at a time when these two parties, the Chancellor’s Christian Democrats and it’s Bavaria sister party, the Christian Social Union, were scarcely on speaking terms.
“Mr Söder has moved towards the middle of the political spectrum and distanced himself from the right-wing populism of his predecessor. And, frankly, a winner loves a winner.”
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Both Chancellor Merkel and Mr Söder were both praised for their conduct throughout the coronavirus pandemic, a behaviour rewarded by the latest popularity polls.
Ms Crane continued: “Both Söder and Merkel emerged from the corona crisis looking very strong indeed.
“The ratings are attributable to the fact they both showed very clear, disciplined leadership in trying to nip corona in the bud.”
But asked if the visit to Bavaria signalled Mr Söder secured the support of Chancellor Merkel for his potential leadership run, Ms Crane dismissed the suggestion.
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She added: “No, it doesn’t.
“I think when she tries to play her cards close to her vest she absolutely means it.
“She had a handpicked successor, that was the woman who is now the Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
“That did not work out well at all so I think the Chancellor is very much now doing a wait and see.”
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Chancellor Merkel herself confirmed she will not add to ongoing speculation and will refuse to comment on her potential successor.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Mr Söder, Mrs Merkel said: “You will not hear me comment on the issue of who will succeed me in any form or in any forum.
“All I can say is that Bavaria has a good premier and he invited me today.”
According to a Forsa study carried out for broadcasters RTL and NTV on Tuesday, 52 percent of respondents back him for Chancellor.
In terms of polling, he is the leading contender to replace Mrs Merkel following the resignation of Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer earlier this year after clashes with CDU echelons.
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