When Angela Merkel's party meets to elect a new leader on Saturday, the chances are her attention will be elsewhere. As her Christian Democrat party (CDU) struggles with the question of how to replace her, the veteran chancellor is focusing her final months in power on battling the coronavirus pandemic. While the three candidates to succeed her were making the final polishes to their speeches on Friday, Mrs Merkel, who will stand down as chancellor in September, was summoning regional leaders to urgent talks on tightening the German lockdown next week. “Anyone who thinks they can win a general election by breaking with Angela Merkel is out of their mind,” Markus Söder, the Bavarian regional leader, said. “She is one of the great chancellors, and belongs alongside Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl.” Mr Söder is not a disinterested commentator. German party leaders are not automatically candidates for chancellor, and he has hopes of being parachuted in as the CDU’s candidate. But it was still a remarkable tribute from a man who was until recently one of Mrs Merkel’s sternest critics. Yet the CDU may be about to break with her all the same. One of the candidates to succeed her, Friedrich Merz, is an old rival whose entire political career has been consumed by his personal antipathy towards Mrs Merkel — so much so he quit politics altogether when he lost control of the party to her in 2002, and didn’t return until she announced her retirement in 2018.