Merkel’s party set to back her for fourth term

Essen: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to secure the backing of her Christian Democrats (CDU) for a fourth term in office at the conservative party’s annual conference.
There is likely to be a sense of relief at the three-day conference over the success of Alexander van der Bellen in Austria’s weekend presidential election, after the pro-EU candidate saw off a challenge from the far-right.
But overshadowing the gathering will be Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s move to step down after losing a weekend referendum on constitutional reforms. The CDU vote on Tuesday for party chief will form part of the build-up to next September’s national election in Germany.
But the size of the vote for Merkel will underscore the degree to which her political standing has suffered as a result of the refugee crisis, which hit the nation last year and has triggered deep divisions in her party’s ranks.
This year’s CDU conference is being held in the western German city of Essen, a city that has special meaning for Merkel as it here that she was first elected CDU chief in 2000.
Since then, she has been returned eight times as the CDU head,securing 96.7 per cent of the vote when the ballot for party leader was last held two years ago.
The chancellor’s plans to run again come against a backdrop of new threats posed to Europe by the rise of nationalist, populist forces and a newly unpredictable White House following last month’s election of New York billionaire Donald Trump.