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Meet Angela Merkel’s potential successor

  • The 55-year-old surprised political commentators in Germany in October when she defeated socialist opposition.
  • As secretary-general, Kramp-Karrenbauer will have the chance to showcase what she could do for the conservative party, at a crucial moment for the group.
Tobias Schwarz | AFP | Getty Images

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has been named the new secretary-general of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), raising speculation that she could eventually replace Angela Merkel as party leader.

The 55-year-old surprised political commentators in Germany in October when she defeated socialist opposition, who was projected to win, to become prime minister of the small western state of Saarland, which borders France.

"She's very much like Merkel, that's why some people call her 'mini-Merkel,'" Daniel van Schoot, senior economist at RaboResearch, told CNBC over the phone Tuesday.

"She's very centrist, also very good at unifying the party, like Merkel," he said, adding that on the other hand, it is hard to find any real conviction in her. "Just like Merkel."

As secretary-general, Kramp-Karrenbauer will have the chance to showcase what she could do for the conservative party, at a time when Merkel's CDU needs to regain voter support lost to the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

"The move from such an executive post — even if only in tiny Saarland — to party secretary-general in Berlin is quite unusual," Carsten Nickel, deputy director of research at Teneo Intelligence, said via email.

"Merkel's choice for AKK (Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer) certainly reflects the chancellor's degree of trust in her. The role offers her the chance to make herself known in the party and the country."

However, analysts argue that it is too early to say who is going to replace Merke, who has been at the helm of German politics for 12 years and has stated that she wants to serve the upcoming four-year mandate in full.

There are other names floating around, albeit less pronounced than Kramp-Karrenbauer, as potential replacements. These include Deputy Finance Minister Jens Spahn, Van Shoot from RaboResearch told CNBC, adding that the 37-year-old is set to get a ministerial position when Merkel outlines the CDU names for the next government on Monday.

However, the list of candidates most likely to succeed Merkel could alter dramatically in the years ahead, Teneo Intelligence's Nickel said.

"Let's make no mistake. German chancellors have always struggled to organize their succession. Once Merkel retires, the game in CDU/CSU might well begin anew."