The new leader of Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) has sought to quell rumours that she is plotting to topple Angela Merkel in the coming weeks by telling a Sunday newspaper that the Chancellor will stay in power until 2021.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has been forced into denying that an unscheduled meeting of the CDU top brass a week after EU elections will be the occasion on which she moves to topple the veteran German leader.
"The Chancellor and the government have been elected for the entire legislature, and citizens rightly expect that they will take seriously the commitment that goes with this election,” Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer told Welt am Sonntag. “I can therefore rule out the possibility that I am deliberately working towards a change."
Well-placed journalists have reported in recent weeks that the June meeting, which is officially about budgetary issues, would be used to announce a significant reshuffle at the top of government.
While Ms Merkel has publicly committed to serving out her fourth term as Chancellor, which runs until 2021, it is an open secret that the CDU would like their new leader to replace Ms Merkel before the next election so that she can establish herself in the public eye.
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Tensions between the top women in the CDU have occasionally leaked into the open in recent weeks. In April Ms Merkel cancelled an appearance at the start of the CDU campaign for the European election, embarrassing her younger colleague who had already set the necessary security arrangements in motion.
The friction has occurred despite the fact that Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer was Ms Merkel’s preferred candidate to replace her as party leader after poor election results for her to give up the post last year.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer insisted in the Welt am Sonntag interview that her relationship to the Chancellor was “very good – just is it always has been.”
She also ruled out the possibility that she would seek a ministerial post in the current government.
“I said last year in February that I wanted to concentrate on the party. I see no reason why I should deviate from this fundamental decision,” she said.