Angela Merkel’s designated successor has announced she is not planning to run for the German chancellorship at the next federal election and plans to step down as leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), German media reported on Monday morning.

The surprise announcement comes in the middle of a major row over the centre-right party’s “firewall” against the far-right, in which CDU delegates in eastern Germany have defied the party headquarter’s ban on cooperating with the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 57, won the contest to succeed Merkel as leader of the CDU in December 2018 and was seen as the candidate most likely to continue the current German chancellor’s centrist course.

But “AKK”, as she has come to be known in German media, has struggled to build a profile in Merkel’s shadow, even after doubling up as defence minister last July.

Questions over her control over an increasingly divided CDU returned to the fore last week, after politicians from the party’s branch in Thuringia voted with the AfD to oust the state’s premier Bodo Ramelow, of leftwing Die Linke.

Merkel’s unusual decision to intervene in the affair, announcing that it was “unforgivable” for democratic parties to win majorities with the help of Alternative für Deutschland, further accentuated Kramp-Karrenbauer’s lack of authority.

News magazine Der Spiegel on Monday morning reported that AKK had cited the unclear positions of certain elements in her party towards the AfD and Die Linke as the reason for her resignation.

More soon …

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