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Head of Merkel's conservative CDU to step down: party sources

Head of Merkel's conservative CDU to step down: party sources

German Chancellor Angela Merkel put forward on Monday her close ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, premier of the tiny western state of Saarland, to take over as secretary general of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), party sources said.

The German Chancellor's promotion of Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer is unlikely to impress those on the right of the party, although Mrs Merkel may seek to placate them by offering a cabinet postion.

The daily said the two women agreed "months ago" that AKK should take over from Tauber, who reportedly indicated even before September's general election that he wanted to step down over his struggles with an intestinal illness.

Merkel proposed that Kramp-Karrenbauer become the CDU's new secretary general at a meeting on Monday of the party's executive committee.

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Almost five months after the national election, Germany is still without a federal government as the SPD consults its members before embarking on a rerun of their "grand coalition" with Merkel's conservative bloc. She also played a key role in Merkel's tough coalition negotiations with the centre-left Social Democrats.

The former CDU Secretary General Peter Tauber, in his farewell statement, expressed hope that Union would become "younger, more female and more diverse", making it clear that his successor is going to be female.

The chancellor praised Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK, as someone "who has experience and knows her own mind, whose work I have valued for years".

She is described as a pragmatic and unpretentious politician seen as a safe choice to preserve Dr Merkel's legacy.

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Last year, ahead of September's federal parliamentary election, she secured a vital victory with 41% of votes in state polls; the vote was viewed as a test of the prevailing mood among Germans.

The debacle is the latest in a series of humiliations for the SPD, and comes a day after an opinion poll found its support has fallen so low it is now in third place behind the nationalist Alternative for Germany party (AfD).

For Schulz, it marked the beginning of a downward spiral that saw him lead the SPD to its worst score in decades in the general election.

The deal is still subject to a ballot by the SPD's deeply divided base of 470,000 rank-and file members. SPD leaders promised to give the party's 463,000 members the chance to approve the agreement after facing strong resistance to entering another so-called "grand coalition" with Merkel, especially among its youth wing.

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