Former Merkel rival joins race to head German leader’s party

BERLIN (AP) — A onetime rival of Chancellor Angela Merkel who has been absent from front-line politics in recent years has joined the race to succeed her as the leader of Germany’s main center-right party.

Friedrich Merz on Tuesday officially declared his candidacy for the leadership of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, to be decided at a party congress in early December. Merkel is giving up the job but plans to remain chancellor.

Merz joins two already-declared candidates: Merkel ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the CDU’s general secretary; and Health Minister Jens Spahn, an advocate of a more right-wing approach.

The 62-year-old Merz appeals to the conservative, pro-business wing of the CDU.

Merz led the party’s parliamentary group when it was in opposition, a job that Merkel took from him in 2002. He left parliament in 2009.

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