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Former Merkel rival hints at interest in German govt job

December 19, 2018
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks down to a mobile devices as she leads the last cabinet meeting of the German government for this year, at the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. The German government will decide at the meeting about an initiative to attract foreign skilled workers. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has no plans to reshuffle her Cabinet, Merkel’s spokesman said Wednesday after a one-time rival of the chancellor hinted he’d be interested in joining the government,

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union is trying to heal internal divisions and prevent future rifts after the politician in question, Friedrich Merz, narrowly lost the race to succeed Merkel as party leader. Merkel ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer defeated Merz on Dec. 7.

Merz, a former leader of the CDU’s parliamentary group who is popular with the party’s conservative right wing, emerged from a decade away from front-line politics to seek the leader’s job. He declined earlier this month to seek election to another senior party position and it remains unclear what, if any, role he will play in the future.

Asked by Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily newspaper whether he’d be interested in becoming a minister, Merz said he would have the confidence to do so “because of my experience in business and politics.”

“However, this is not in my hands, but is a matter for the chancellor,” he said, adding “we will see” after more discussions in the new year with Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The Cabinet job most obviously suited to Merz would be that of economy minister, currently held by Merkel ally Peter Altmaier.

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, was asked Wednesday whether the chancellor planned a reshuffle soon to make space for Merz.

“The chancellor doesn’t plan a Cabinet reshuffle,” Seibert said.

Merkel relinquished her party’s leadership after a difficult year for the CDU. She has said she plans to remain chancellor for the rest of the current parliamentary term — which could last until 2021. She and Merz have had a difficult relationship in the past.

Kramp-Karrenbauer is the favorite to run for chancellor in the next election, but isn’t guaranteed to become the candidate.

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