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Before the coronavirus pandemic brought the leadership race to a halt, party allies were posturing to replace Angela Merkel as German Chancellor. Ms Merkel will stand down from her role in 2021, as support for her Christian Democratic Union has dwindled in recent years. Among the candidates to replace Ms Merkel is Friedrich Merz – who the Financial Times described as “ready to seize fresh chance to claim Merkel’s job” in February.
Mr Merz has a long history with Ms Merkel after the current Chancellor beat him to the leadership of the party in 2002.
After leaving politics in 2009, Mr Merz is now back in the fold and hoping the series of setbacks for his historic rival could allow him to take her chair as Chancellor.
Ms Merkel’s leadership has come under increasing scrutiny as a result of election results in recent years.
In the country’s 2013 Federal Elections, the AfD, having just been founded, won 810,000 votes winning no seats.
But in the next vote four years later, the party boosted their share to over five million votes, a rise bigger than Ukip’s between 2010-2015.
In last year’s state elections, Ms Merkel’s party also suffered a huge blow in the Thuringia region – where her CDU party usually dominates.
This time they finished third, behind the AfD in second as Die Linke (The Left) claimed a surprise victory.
Mr Merz, if he is to succeed Ms Merkel, would undo a lot of her work and even threaten the current Chancellor’s legacy.
This is the view of Felix Schoenherr, spokesman for the Werte Union, a group critical of Ms Merkel’s leadership.
He told Express.co.uk earlier this year: “I really think so [he would change a lot]. It may be very hard at first because of the coalition with the left-wing parties, so this means the coalition probably won’t work anymore.
“Things will drastically change within the party because if Merz becomes leader, the top of the party will have different personnel.”
The election for a new leader has been suspended however, as Germany grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
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It was due to take place on 25 April 2020 following Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s decision in February 2020 to resign as Leader of the Christian Democratic Union in part due to the Thuringia political crisis
There are now three candidates remaining.
Ms Merz wants to bring the party further to the right, while Armin Laschet has been branded a Merkel loyalist.
Meanwhile, Norbert Roettgen has been widely seen as someone who could work with the Greens, the second-biggest party in polls after the conservative bloc.
Despite the complex posturing in the party, Ms Merkel’s image has been boosted by her handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Some 80 percent of voters were pleased with Ms Merkel’s management of the pandemic, according to a poll by broadcaster ZDF’s Forschungsgruppe Wahlen.
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