Angela Merkel to appoint new CDU general secretary

Angela Merkel to appoint new CDU general secretary

Merkel's conservative bloc gained 2.5 percentage points to reach 32 percent and the AfD was up 1 percentage point to 16 percent while the SPD fell 1 percentage point to 15.5 percent, the weekly poll showed on Monday.

In another sign of the increased pressure the established parties are facing, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) surpassed the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) for the first time in a national poll to become the second-strongest party, an Insa survey for the daily Bild showed.

"It's very hard because there's good arguments on both sides", said Joerg Lorenz, managing director of the party's operations in Duisburg, a traditional SPD stronghold in Germany's Rust Belt, adding that the level of tension is like nothing he's seen in over 30 years of service.

Merkel is expected to tap close confidante Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 55, to take the reins from ally Peter Tauber, who at the weekend said he was stepping down for health reasons.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for exploratory talks about an new German government between her Christian Unions block and the Social Democratic Party at the SPD headquarters in Berlin, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. At a joint conference announcing her appointment, Merkel, said: "We have known each other a long time and can rely on each other, even if we have our own views".

"I think she's really good", one CDU lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of Kramp-Karrenbauer.

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"We are experiencing one of the most hard political phases in the history of (post-war) Germany", Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters, explaining why she was willing to leave her post as governor of one of Germany's 16 states to devote her energy to the party's headquarters in Berlin.

The change-over comes as Merkel, in power for over 12 years, is under fire within her party over the concessions she made to seal another loveless "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats (SPD) - with the loss of the powerful finance ministry portfolio a particularly bitter blow.

A fluent French speaker, she commands respect in the party for her serious, factual approach to policymaking.

A member of the CDU's executive committee, Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer has governed Saarland - a state of about a million people on the border with France - since 2011. The woman, dubbed Merkel of Saarland by the media, has led two state coalition governments with the CDU and SPD as premier. She said she will step down as Saarland premier and take up her new job in "one of the most hard political phases in the history of the German federal republic so far".

Merkel was elected general-secretary in 1998, a role that traditionally involves managing the party's campaigns and developing its political messages.

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