February 11, 2020 / 5:21 PM / 8 days ago

Merkel allies press for swift resolution of succession question

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, outgoing leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), attends a Reuters interview in Berlin, Germany, February 12, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - Senior members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives called on Tuesday for a swift decision on who should lead the party and be its next chancellor candidate after her protegee Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer threw in the towel.

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

But Alexander Dobrindt, chief lawmaker of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), said the so-called “Union” conservative bloc must find a much swifter solution.

“In my opinion, such leadership questions must be resolved quickly,” Dobrindt said. “We need decisions now to make things clearer.”

CDU deputy leader Volker Bouffier also put Kramp-Karrenbauer’s timetable into question. “I don’t think we’re going to wait that long, we’ll find a decision sooner,” Bouffier told public radio broadcaster ARD.

CDU parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus warned that a prolonged leadership debate could hamper the ruling coalition’s work. The party should not rush the decision, but definitely avoid a delay until autumn or even winter, he said.

Kramp-Karrenbauer had faced growing doubt over her suitability to replace Merkel, who has led Germany for 15 years but plans to stand down at the federal election due in autumn 2021.

Last week, Kramp-Karrenbauer’s inability to impose discipline on the CDU in the eastern state of Thuringia dealt a further blow to her credibility, which had been eroded by a series of gaffes.

The regional CDU branch defied her by endorsing a local political leader helped into office by the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), shattering a postwar consensus among established parties on shunning the far-right.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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