Merkel's party postpones December 4 congress to choose new leader: sources

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BERLIN (Reuters) – The executive committee of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) has decided to postpone the party congress planned for Dec. 4 to elect a new leader, sources within the CDU told Reuters on Monday.

The executive committee voted unanimously in favour of a proposal by party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to decide on Jan. 16 whether it will be possible to hold the meeting with 1,001 delegates in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

If the pandemic situation is still unclear, the party will have to consider holding a virtual congress and allowing delegates to vote by mail, the sources said, although this would pose logistical challenges.

Merkel, in power since 2005, has said she will not seek re-election in federal elections due by October 2021. Kramp-Karrenbauer said in February she no longer wanted to succeed Merkel and would stand down as CDU leader.

So far, Armin Laschet, premier of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, erstwhile Merkel rival Friedrich Merz, and foreign policy expert Norbert Roettgen are running to be chairman.

Laschet, who is positioning himself as the continuity candidate to succeed Merkel, had pushed for a postponement of the party congress, saying the CDU could not justify holding a conference at a time of rising coronavirus infections.

Merz, in contrast, has spoken out against a delay.

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