German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU conservative alliance is seeking someone with mainstream appeal to be the leader of the country's largest party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), the German Press Agency (DPA) reported on Saturday.
Merkel said after Monday's party leadership meeting in Berlin that she is not anxious the party leadership contest will foster instability in Germany and that the CDU remains committed to the coalition with the Social Democrats.
It is no secret Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer is Mrs Merkel's preferred successor, but she insisted on Monday she is ready to work alongside any of the candidates, despite widespread suggestions the historic rivalry between her and Mr Merz could force her from office early if he wins.
Merkel, who has been chancellor for 13 years and party leader for 18 years, said on Monday that she planned to step down as chancellor when her current term expires in 2021. After the departure of the German politicians it does not intend to seek to hold any position in the leadership of the European Union.
Also running for CDU head is Jens Spahn, who has publicly criticised Merkel's open-borders refugee policy.
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Electing Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, would be a sign a majority in the party want to continue Merkel's more centrist line, while Merz, 62, and Spahn would likely push the CDU further to the right.
Commenting on the latest survey findings on Monday, Forsa chief Manfred Guellner argued that recent electoral results showed "how wrong an orientation towards the past would be for the CDU".
Endorsements are already trickling in from the party's various interest groups.
Merkel's successor is to be elected at a CDU congress in Hamburg Dec. 7-8, after the candidates have presented themselves at a series of regional conferences. Key pro-business party members are expected to back Merz, who left politics in 2009 to take up a series of posts in business and finance.
Among CDU members, Merz has 44 percent support, with Kramp-Karrenbauer at 39 percent and Spahn at 9 percent, according to the Bild am Sonntag poll published Sunday. If there are three or more candidates, the field will be whittled down to the two highest-scoring contenders for a runoff.