After months of wrangling with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Mrs Merkel CSU/CDU coalition has finally agreed a deal securing a new government. 

But with the SPD still required to gain the support of their members before formally agreeing, Mrs Merkel’s future remains up in the air. 

A failed agreement with the SPD would most likely spark another election – and it is unlikely Mrs Merkel would recover from such a blow.

Even if she does secure a fourth term as Chancellor, allies and critics alike are in agreement it will be her last stint as leader. 

Guenther Oettinger, a senior CDU member and the European Union’s budget commissioner, said last week: “It is clear to everyone that the chancellor is going into a last term.”

But who will replace Mrs Merkel? 

One front-runner is Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of the CDU, the premier of the Saarland region known as “mini Merkel”.

A close Merkel ally, she supports increasing the top income bracket rate. However she sparked controversy in 2015 by comparing same sex marriage with incest.

She is seen as Mrs Merkel’s preferred choice for her successor despite lacking in national and international political experience. 

Julia Klockner, also of the CDU, is another favourite for the job. 

She stood by Mrs Merkel after she failed to secure a government during the last election, saying the Chancellor cannot be blamed for everything. 

Ms Klockner said: “I think we should all refrain from blaming each other for failing”. 

She is a veteran of German politics and likely to be there or thereabouts when the leadership role opens. 

The CDU also boasts several other candidates: Daniel Gunther, the Schleswig-Holstein premier who burst onto the scene last year and ambitious finance minister Jens Spahn.

SPD could also hold the next chancellor depending on their success at the next election: Andrea Nahles, Martin Schulz’s proposed replacement as party leader, veteran opposition politician Malu Dreyer and outsider Olaf Scholz, who was temporarily alienated in his own party for defending controversial reforms during the 2000s. 

Daily Express

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