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Germany’s Merkel brings possible successor to Berlin

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed Monday that the governor of Germany’s tiny western state of Saarland run her party’s day-to-day operations — putting her in prime position eventually to succeed Merkel as leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union.

Merkel said she wants the party to elect Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to the post of general-secretary next Monday. The party’s current general-secretary, Peter Tauber, is stepping down after facing health issues.

Speaking alongside Kramp-Karrenbauer at the party’s headquarters in Berlin, Merkel said the 55-year-old Catholic would bring a lot of experience and credibility to the role at a time when the Christian Democrats are under pressure to define their political positions.

Conservative voters have abandoned the party in recent years, partly over Merkel’s welcoming stance on immigration, even though it still came first in last September’s election with almost 33 percent of the vote.

“We are experiencing one of the most difficult 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.

Kramp-Karrenbauer has been governor of Saarland on Germany’s western border with France and Luxembourg since 2011. During that time she worked to make French a second language in the state and improve economic, cultural and political ties with France.

Merkel was elected general-secretary in 1998, a role that traditionally involves managing the party’s campaigns and developing its political messages. Merkel went from general-secretary to party leader in 2000, and becoming Germany’s chancellor five years later.

Asked whether she considered herself Merkel’s “crown princess” now, Kramp-Karrenbauer — who is often referred to by her acronym A.K.K. in German media — said: “I was never suited for princess roles.”

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