May 17, 2019 / 9:43 PM / a month ago

Merkel's heir apparent denies pressuring German chancellor to resign

FILE PHOTO - Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer addresses the media following a CDU/CSU senior party leaders meeting in Berlin,, Germany, March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - The presumptive heir to Angela Merkel denied a report on Friday that she had pressured the German chancellor to step down after an election later this month for the European Parliament in which their conservative party is set to lose ground.

A spokeswoman for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), denied a Bloomberg report, which cited two unnamed people, that Kramp-Karrenbauer had pressured the chancellor to step down after the May 26 vote.

“The report that the chairwoman of the CDU had pressured the chancellor to step down after the European Parliament vote lacks any basis,” the spokeswoman said.

There has been speculation about whether Merkel, now almost 14 years in power, would complete her fourth and last term in office. Both Merkel and AKK, as Kramp-Karrenbauer is known in Germany, have said the chancellor would complete her term, which ends in 2021.

Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrats (SPD) junior coalition partners are expected to bleed support in the European election next week.

That would particularly increase the pressure on the SPD to quit the coalition and reinvent itself in opposition, especially because it risks losing control of the northern German state of Bremen where it has ruled for more than seven decades in a vote also on May 26.

It is unlikely Merkel would try to form a new government with other parties if the SPD were to quit the coalition after the vote in Bremen next week. She would most likely leave the stage for Kramp-Karrenbauer, her preferred successor.

Bloomberg quoted one unidentified source as saying that Kramp-Karrenbauer had sent a message to Merkel urging her to resign and called a CDU party conference for June 2 in order to try to force her hand.

But sources in the CDU told Reuters that the two women had jointly selected the date for the CDU conference to discuss spending plans in light of weaker tax intakes as Europe’s largest economy cools.

Editing by Leslie Adler

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