Twelve people have put their names into the hat for the leadership but only three are seen with a realistic chance of gaining the post, Health Minster Jens Spahn, former parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Known as 'AKK' in German political circles, the 56 year old Kramp-Karrenbauer stands out from the bunch as she is seen as Merkel's personal preference for the party leadership and future chancellorship. Merkel nominated Kramp-Karrenbauer to be the CDU's secretary-general in February this year, sending a strong signal that she endorsed the then-chief minister of Saarland State as her successor.
Futhermore, while Spahn and Merz are seen as potential opponents of Merkel, who has said she intends to remain as chancellor until the next election in 2021, Kramp-Karrenbauer is viewed as someone who would stick to the centrist path forged by Merkel. The CDU membership will make a decision at a party conference on December 7-8.
Presenting her candidacy on Wednesday, Kramp-Karrenbauer alluded to her policy perspective saying "this era is ending, and such an era can't be continued indefinitely — but it also can't be reversed," signaling that she would not undo CDU policies introduced by her mentor.
German newspaper Handelsblatt thinks Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has a good chance of gaining the top job, citing her extensive experience in politics.
"Her numerous positions within the party should help her campaign – and her fans span the CDU's youth wing through to focus groups helping families, women, and Catholics," Allison Williams, deputy editor at Handelsblatt Global, said in a newsletter on Tuesday.
"Plus, she's headed ministries from the interior to justice and sport before leading her state. She has also governed at the state level with the Green Party, a valuable experience given a new chancellor may have to lead a coalition with the pro-business FDP liberals and the environmentalist Greens.'
Her one downfall, as Williams pointed out, could be that she is too similar to Merkel and that the public might want a change of course, for better or worse, after 13 years of Merkel.
"Her fans say she's intelligent with a keen sense of irony; to others, she's conservative, lacks fiery rhetoric and is just a Merkel II."