FILE PHOTO: Candidate for the party chair Friedrich Merz delivers his speech during the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party congress in Hamburg, Germany, December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo
BERLIN (Reuters) – German conservative Friedrich Merz said on Friday he would not be taking a new post with the Christian Democrats, contradicting the party and exposing lingering divisions after he lost the race to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel as CDU leader.
The CDU said on Thursday that Merz, a former Merkel rival, would take a party post focusing on economic policy and transatlantic ties. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel protege who beat Merz, congratulated him on his new CDU role on Twitter.
But Merz said he did not commit to any party role despite offering to help Kramp-Karrenbauer craft a new vision for the CDU, which wants to win back voters this year in regional elections in three eastern states where the far-right is strong.
“I am ready to help but I won’t be part of any commission or any committee of the party,” Merz told the n-tv broadcaster at an economic summit in Bavaria.
Asked about the apparent turnaround, a CDU spokeswoman said Merz’s comments were no sign of a rift between Kramp-Karrenbauer and the man she narrowly defeated in December.
Both Kramp-Karrenbauer and Merz vowed to heal divisions within the CDU exposed by the race to succeed Merkel, who relinquished leadership of the party after the CDU hemorrhaged support in a regional election in October.
Merz is popular with members of the CDU’s right wing who had wanted him to steer them away from Merkel’s centrist path, which they blame for bleeding support to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) far-right party.
Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann, Andreas Rinke; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Peter Graff