July 16, 2019 / 8:05 PM / 2 months ago

German Conservative boss to succeed von der Leyen as minister

FILE PHOTO: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Chairwoman of Germany's Christian Democratic Union party (CDU), addresses a news conference at the party headquarters in Berlin, Germany June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and head of her Christian Democrat party, will succeed Ursula von der Leyen as defence minister, government spokesman Steffen Seibert told Reuters.

Von der Leyen, who was confirmed on Tuesday by the European Parliament as the next head of the European Union’s executive commission, steps down from her German role on Wednesday.

The choice of Kramp-Karrenbauer, a follower of Merkel’s centrist politics, came as a surprise to many in Berlin, where many had expected Jens Spahn, the arch-conservative health minister, to take the defence job.

But Kramp-Karrenbauer, widely seen as the long-serving chancellor’s favoured candidate to succeed her, currently has no government role, a reason critics have given in the past to oppose her possible rise to the chancellorship.

(This story corrects to Wednesday from Tuesday in second paragraph)

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Peter Cooney

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