Merkel’s Christian Democrats to elect new leader in December

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right CDU party said Monday it will in December chose a new leader who could be in pole position to replace the veteran politician at elections next year.

Merkel's Christian Democrats to elect new leader in December
Merkel speaking on Monday in Berlin. Photo: DPA

The CDU will hold a one-day congress under special coronavirus precautions on December 4th in Stuttgart, party general secretary Paul Ziemiak told a press conference.

The race to succeed Merkel was thrown wide open earlier this year when her protegee Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced she would step down as party leader.

READ ALSO: Merkel 'heir'' AKK will not run for German chancellor

A meeting planned for April to elect a new leader was postponed due to Covid-19.

Back then, the three main CDU hopefuls for Merkel's job were state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet, corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz and foreign affairs expert Norbert Roettgen.

But former favourite Laschet has stumbled in managing the coronavirus response in his state, which has seen high case numbers including a huge outbreak at a meat processing plant.

Merz and Röttgen have meanwhile lost visibility in the media spotlight as Germany grapples with the pandemic.

The chief of the CDU traditionally leads it and its smaller Bavarian sister party CSU to the polls. He or she therefore has a claim on the chancellor job should the conservative bloc win the election.

But this time, speculation is running high that CSU leader Markus Söder could seek the coveted chancellor-candidate post of the conservative bloc.

Söder himself has repeatedly stressed that his place is in Bavaria.

READ ALSO: Is Bavaria's leader on course to become Germany's next chancellor?

But his tough attitude on halting virus transmission has won him plaudits, and he has as a result topped recent surveys on who Germans would like to see as their next leader.

The CDU has not ruled out fielding Söder as the chancellor candidate.

Germany's centre-left Social Democrats, the CDU's junior coalition partner, have nominated Finance Minister Olaf Scholz to lead them in the race to succeed Merkel.

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Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
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‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.