BERLIN (Reuters) - Angela Merkel’s heir apparent, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, is not ready to succeed her as chancellor, a poll showed on Wednesday, in a setback to their party’s plans for a smooth leadership transition.
Merkel, Europe’s longest-serving leader, began a stage-managed gradual exit from politics in October when she said her fourth term as chancellor would be her last.
In December, the leadership of her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) passed to Kramp-Karrenbauer in what was widely seen as the beginning of a handover of power.
But the survey by pollster Forsa showed 70 percent of Germans believed Kramp-Karrenbauer was not yet suited to taking over as chancellor. They wanted Merkel to stay on instead until 2021, when the legislative term is due to end.
Even 52 percent of CDU supporters believed that Kramp-Karrenbauer, widely known by her initials AKK and sometimes dubbed “mini-Merkel”, was not up to being chancellor, according to the poll for broadcaster RTL, for which Forsa surveyed 1,501 people on Monday and Tuesday.
The poll followed a batch of ill-judged comments from Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, and speculation that Merkel - dismissed by the chancellor - could quit early for a big European Union job in Brussels.
On Tuesday, Kramp-Karrenbauer faced criticism from across Germany’s political spectrum after she called for rules about expressing online opinions before elections in response to a YouTube video that criticised her party.
Kramp-Karrenbauer denied she was promoting censorship.
Her other gaffes have included poking fun at trans-gender people in a carnival speech, and addressing attendees at high-profile CDU meeting as Social Democrats.
Merkel, 64, this month reaffirmed that she would leave politics altogether after her fourth term, dismissing speculation that she could take a big EU job.
Kramp-Karrenbauer said in comments published this month that she had no ambition to succeed Merkel as chancellor until 2021.
Germany’s two main parties, the CDU-led conservatives and their Social Democrat coalition partners, were both hammered in European Parliament elections at the weekend.
Reporting by Paul Carrel and Michael Nienaber; editing by John Stonestreet