Merkel warning: German leader told NOT to cling to power – 'Would quickly turn sour'

With no obvious replacement having yet emerged, Mrs Merkel retains enormous amounts of authority not to mention worldwide name recognition, and it was reported government officials were “really glad” she was still in charge to manage the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Thorsten Benner of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin told The Sunday Times any bid to prolong her tenure would be a mistake and could backfire.

He said: “Germans would quickly sour on this.

“They are anxious about the economy, sure, but they’re ready to turn a page.

“And there’s a generation of men who think it’s their turn to take over.”

Furthermore, were the 65-year-old to outstay her welcome, it would play into politicians from the far-right, he predicted.

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“It seemed the government wouldn’t survive just a year ago.

“But she’s always managed to recover: she has a proven ability to handle crises.”

However, CDU MP Juergen Hardt said she would not be persuaded to change her mind about stepping down, despite the praise which has been heading her way.

He explained: “She’s thinking, ‘I did it for 16 years.

“I have nothing left on my desk to accomplish.

“I’m healthy, I have some years left to enjoy without all the pressure of leadership.”

The race to replace Mrs Merkel was thrown wide open this year after Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, whom was tipped to succeed her, announced she was standing down as CDU leader after persistent criticism.

She said: “This is a decision that I have come to over a period of time.”

A new leadership contest is likely to be held in the summer.

Mrs Merkel’s final months as Chancellor will largely coincide with Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Asked about the future of the bloc, itself under pressure for its sluggish pandemic response, she said: “Rather than ask the existential question too often, we should get on with the day job.”

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