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Factbox: Potential candidates to succeed Kramp-Karrenbauer as German conservative leader

BERLIN (Reuters) - Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s protegee and leader of their conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), will not run for chancellor in Germany’s federal election next year, a source in her party said on Monday.

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Merkel, 65, has said she will not seek re-election to the post at the next federal election, due by October 2021.

Kramp-Karrenbauer told CDU leaders she would give up the party chair as well as her ambitions of running for chancellor, as she believed one person should do both, the source said. She would organize a process to fill both roles in the summer.

Below are key facts on the leading potential candidates to replace Kramp-Karrenbauer as the chancellor candidate for the so-called ‘Union’ conservative bloc, which comprises the CDU and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).


FRIEDRICH MERZ - Merz, 64, came second to Kramp-Karrenbauer in the December 2018 race for the CDU leadership and has remained prolific ever since as she struggled to assert herself. To seek the chair, he returned from the political wilderness after losing out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002 and leaving the Bundestag in 2009. His socially conservative, pro-business message appeals to the CDU’s core of western, Catholic men who see Merkel - a Protestant woman from the east - as an anomaly. Earlier this month, Merz said he had quit asset manager Blackrock to focus more on politics.

JENS SPAHN - Spahn, 39, led criticism within the CDU of Merkel’s 2015 decision to leave German borders open to more than one million refugees fleeing war in the Middle East. Highly ambitious, Merkel awarded him the Health Ministry portfolio after the 2017 federal election. He appeals to conservatives on the right of the CDU. He has cut a dynamic figure during the coronavirus crisis, jetting to Paris and London to coordinate the European and G7 response.

ARMIN LASCHET - Laschet, 58, is CDU premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state. A Merkel loyalist, he would be a continuity candidate but would not satisfy the thirst of some in the party for change.

RALPH BRINKHAUS - Brinkhaus, 51, has been the CDU/CSU’s parliamentary group leader since 2018, when he replaced Volker Kauder, whom Merkel and Laschet had endorsed for the role. A relative long-shot to be chancellor candidate, his network with the parliamentary party is his greatest asset.

MARKUS SOEDER - Soeder, 53, is leader of the Bavarian CSU. No chancellor has ever come from the CSU, although Franz Josef Strauss and Edmund Stoiber of the CSU were the Union candidates in the 1980 and 2002 federal elections, respectively, which were both won by the Social Democrats. Soeder delighted CDU delegates with a confident, feel-good speech as a guest at their party conference last November, but has since sought to dismiss speculation that he will run for chancellor.

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Gareth Jones