BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted Monday that she can work well with any potential successor as leader of her party, including a one-time rival seeking a comeback after a decade-long absence.
Merkel also stressed that her center-right Christian Democratic Union is committed to its troubled coalition with the center-left Social Democrats.
Merkel announced a week ago that she plans to give up the CDU leadership after 18 years but remain as Germany’s chancellor.
There are three high-profile candidates to succeed her: CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is the closest to Merkel’s centrist approach; and two contenders who stand for a more conservative profile, former parliamentary leader Friedrich Merz and Health Minister Jens Spahn.
Germany’s chancellor of the past 13 years has said she is ready to continue in that job for the rest of the parliamentary term, which is supposed to last until 2021.
Pressed Monday on whether she really wants to do that, she replied: “I don’t know of readiness without willingness.”
Many observers question how realistic that is, particularly if Merz becomes CDU leader. Merkel ousted Merz as her bloc’s parliamentary leader in 2002 and many doubt they could work together. Merz left the German parliament in 2009.
Merkel said she had “always found solutions” with Merz in the past, though “of course we were not always of the same opinion.”
“I have no doubt that, if that is the outcome, I can work well together with Friedrich Merz, as with every other candidate,” she told reporters in Berlin.
Merkel’s successor is to be elected at a CDU congress in Hamburg Dec. 7-8, after the candidates have presented themselves at a series of regional conferences.
The chancellor sought to downplay the possible destabilizing impact of the party leadership change on the federal governing coalition with the Social Democrats, which has squabbled since it took office in March.
A CDU leadership meeting Sunday and Monday showed a “conviction that we will continue the government on the basis of the coalition agreement,” Merkel said.