BERLIN: German Health Minister Jens Spahn will not run for the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), two sources in the party said on Tuesday (Feb 25), leaving three contenders so far for the job.
The CDU succession debate was blown wide open earlier this month when party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer unexpectedly said she would no longer seek to succeed her mentor Merkel.
Spahn had been expected to run for the position.
He is due to hold a news conference with Armin Laschet - the premier of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, who is expected to announce his candidacy - at 0830 GMT. Laschet is widely seen as the continuity candidate.
German magazine Focus reported that Spahn would run as Laschet's deputy.
Merkel, chancellor of Europe's biggest economy for almost 15 years, has said she will not run again in the next federal election, due by Oct. 2021. It is unclear if she will be able to remain chancellor until then with a new party leader.
Kramp-Karrenbauer has stressed that the party's top brass expected the winner of the leadership contest to work alongside Merkel.
Friedrich Merz, on the right of the party and a long-time archrival of Merkel, is also expected to stand at a news conference later on Tuesday morning.
Last week, Norbert Roettgen, head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, unexpectedly joined the leadership race.
The new CDU leader is in a strong position to be the conservative bloc's candidate for chancellor in the next election, although Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) also have a big say. They may prefer to put forward their own leader, Markus Soeder.
The CDU plans to pick a new leader at a special congress on Apr 25, an attempt to resolve a crisis that is shaking the party's hold on power.
The conservative bloc currently rules in coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).