Back in 2018, the German Chancellor announced she would stand down as leader of the Christian Democrat Union (CDU) at the party convention and would not seek a fifth term this year.
But her long-time rival Mr Merz is preparing to stand in internal party elections and claimed he is the most “modern” of the three candidates.
Mr Merz said: “There is nothing retro about me.
“In fact, I would say I’m the most modern of the three candidates, even though I’m the oldest.
“How come? Because all the problems Germany will face in the next decade – a rising China, the new great power rivalry, deep technological change – I have ben facing them for years.”
He continued: “For the first time in our post-war history, we will have an election where the outgoing chancellor does not run as a candidate.
“We cannot keep saying; have both x and y.
“We cannot keep saying yes and no at the same time.”
But some CDU members have claimed his leadership bid is personal.
“But it’s okay. That was 20 years ago.
“I recovered a long time ago.”
Back in February last year, Ms Merkel’s chosen successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, resigned.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer announced she would step down as CDU leader following a controversial election in the German state of Thuringia.
The centre-right CDU voted with the far-right and anti-immigrant Alternative for Deutschland (AFD).
Sudha David-Wilp, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, said at the time: “A lot of political commentators have said the ‘dam has been breached, this is a turning point, we should never cooperate with the AfD’.
“But they are faced with reality, on the conservative side of the aisle, that nearly a quarter of the voters in Thuringia and some other states, like Brandenburg, have voted for the AfD in state elections.”
Following the outbreak of coronavirus, Mr Merz raised eyebrows for his remarks on homosexuality to the virus.
When asked in September whether he had any objections to a gay person becoming chancellor, he said: “Sexual orientation is none of the public’s business.
“As long as it is legal and doesn’t involve children – an absolute limit for me – it isn’t a subject for public discussion.”
Andreas Rodder, a historian at the University of Mainz, said: “The Merkel wing of the CDU says you would gain fewer conservative voters than you would lose by moving away from Merkel’s centrist line.
“There is a real conflict of strategy here.”