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Mrs Merkel is due to step down as German Chancellor this year after 16 years in the country’s top job. The outgoing leader, 67, will not be seeking a fifth term in office at Germany’s parliament election on Sunday. Armin Laschet is the man touted by Mrs Merkel as the hopeful successor to her steady 16-year reign. The politician is the former premier of Germany’s sprawling state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
He took over from Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as leader of the conservative CDU party earlier this year.
However, a lacklustre campaign has seen Mr Laschet’s CDU trail in the polls behind the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Although Mrs Merkel has been tipped to leave politics for good, she may be tempted to stay if the CDU suffers at the election, according to John Callahan, who is the Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at New England College.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “I think she will retire in a fashion similar to George W. Bush and [Bill] Clinton, where they’re sort of a senior statesman, and they may occasionally come out and make a speech.
“But I think she probably wants to be done at this point, but we’ll see, you never know.
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“The other factors to consider, there are who wins, if the CDU is completely out of the government, she may feel compelled to stay involved to help rebuild that coalition.
“If it’s a CDU blowout, which is not likely, or if it’s a CDU-FDP coalition or even a CDU-Green coalition, which is possible, and they dominate and it’s all good, then I think there’s more inclination on her part to just retire and say ‘ok the job is done’ than if it doesn’t go that way.”
The pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), led by Christian Lindner, could become kingmaker at this election.
The centrist party has previously been required to form conservative-led coalition governments, including under former chancellors, Helmut Kohl and Mrs Merkel.
The FDP could once again be needed to support the CDU if Mr Laschet fails to garner enough support.
However, given its centrist politics, the FDP may also find itself as a potential coalition partner to Germany’s left-of-centre parties.
This would mean joining the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens in a potential three-way government.
Talk of Mrs Merkel’s CDU losing votes at this election has grown after a string of damaging incidents for the party.
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One such moment came as Defence Minister Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer – Mrs Merkel’s widely-touted replacement as chancellor – stepped down as CDU leader in the middle of a row over the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party last year.
Her resignation came soon after CDU politicians defied party bosses to vote with the AfD in the state of Thuringia to elect FDP candidate Thomas Kemmerich.
Mr Callahan suggested that the incidents had proved a political headache for Mrs Merkel.
He said: “She’s seen her choices fall apart in the last two years, beginning a year-and-a-half ago with the defence minister who had that scandal with the AfD and Thuringia.
“She’s either going to be disgusted and walk or be happy to stay involved.
“She’s provided a steady hand to Germany and in many ways to Europe through some hella bad crises in the last 20 years.
“And if she steered in some directions that I didn’t appreciate, that’s fine but the German people by and large did appreciate it.”
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