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

FILE -- in this Tuesday, June 12, 2018 photo Friedrich Merz attends a meeting of the economic council of the Chistian Democratic Party in Berlin, Germany. Merz lost his post as the party's parliamentary leader to Merkel in 2002 and has been absent from front-line politics in recent years. (Jens Buettner/dpa via AP)

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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