New German leader likely to be a member of Merkel’s party

He has only been nominated but the race for the German chancellor’s post is all but set.

Olaf Scholz, a 52-year-old Social Democrat, is on course to replace Angela Merkel, who announced her plans to step down after 12 years at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy.

Schoelz is a German Social Democrat and will become Germany’s next chancellor unless she pulls an unexpected surprise.

There are two main frontrunners: Scholz and the Green party’s leader, Reinhard Buetikofer. One of them will be her successor.

Schoelz has served in the cabinet of Merkel and her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, helping to steer them towards a compromise on tough EU austerity policies. He opposed, however, increases in the retirement age and introduced tax breaks for employees and employers.

She has held office since 2005 and is the longest-serving leader of a major country since the end of World War II. Her conservative party faces a major challenge to retain its standing in next year’s election. In a recent poll, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party – the Christian Social Union – were separated by just five percentage points, the lowest since 1993.

Responding to media speculation about her future, she said last month: “There is only one candidate who can be chancellor – and that is me. Nothing else.”

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