Merkel proposes ally for crucial party job

Jens Spahn holds a mobile phone in his hand as he speaks during the Christian Democratic Union party convention

Members of Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party have started voting on whether to accept the coalition agreement negotiated by their leaders with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc on forming a new government.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has been tipped as a possible successor to Merkel as leader of the Christian Democratic Union.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel put forward close ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Monday to take over as secretary general of her Christian Democrats (CDU), heeding calls from within the party to inject new blood and groom a successor.

Technically the appointment still has to be confirmed in a vote next week, but for the party to defy Ms Merkel over the chairmanship - a non-cabinet role - would be unheard of.

The key party post has become vacant since the former CDU Secretary General Peter Tauber announced he's leaving due to serious bowel illness. Merkel herself was CDU secretary general before becoming chancellor.

The German Chancellor stressed Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer's promotion will strengthen the CDU amid speculation Mrs Merkel's fourth term in power will be her last.

Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer has been governor of Saarland on Germany's western border with France and Luxembourg since 2011.

Support for the 153-year-old SPD has fallen from 20.5 percent in September's general election to 15.5 percent, it found, while the AfD climbed from 12.7 to 16 percent. The woman, dubbed Merkel of Saarland by the media, has led two state coalition governments with the CDU and SPD as premier. By taking on the role of secretary general, Kramp-Karrenbauer's network in the CDU will be improved vastly. "The discussion of the programme is open to everyone in the party, from the grassroots to the top", she said.

"We are experiencing one of the most hard periods in the Federal Republic of Germany", Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer said yesterday.

Almost five months after the national election, Germany is still without a federal government as the SPD consults its members before embarking on a re-run of their "grand coalition" with Merkel.

Mrs Merkel told a Berlin news conference: "This is about strengthening the CDU at all of its roots, not only in one - but in its full breadth", Merkel said at a joint news conference in Berlin. She impressed the chancellor last month when, after a vehicle crash, she continued work on coalition negotiations from her hospital bed.

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