Angela Merkel on Monday tapped the popular female premier of Germany's tiny Saarland state to take over as secretary general of her conservative party, fuelling speculation the veteran chancellor is lining up her successor.
By appointing one of her closest confidantes to a top CDU role, Merkel is also responding to critics who have been calling for fresh faces to reinvigorate the party after the disappointing September election.
Although Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer has a formidable record as an election campaigner, all her experience so far has been in regional politics in her home state of Saarland, where she is now prime minister.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is expected to become new secretary-general of the CDU, as media reported on February 19, 2018, one day after party sources had said that Peter Tauber will step down from this post. The party's current general-secretary, Peter Tauber, is stepping down after facing health issues.
The chancellor praised Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK, as someone "who has experience and knows her own mind, whose work I have valued for years".
Merkel said that, after many challenges, the CDU is in need of "self-reflection" and discussion, in order to strengthen the party's roots.
A mother-of-three who has been a mainstay in local politics for over three decades, AKK has climbed steadily up the ranks.More news: Parliament meets to elect a new president
Last year, ahead of September's federal parliamentary election, she secured a vital victory with 41% of votes in state polls; the vote was viewed as a test of the prevailing mood among Germans.
Her star been on the rise since her thumping re-election past year in a closely-watched regional vote.
Merkel herself presented AKK with a bouquet of flowers after voters returned the state premier to power with 41 percent of the vote.
The CDU and the Social Democrats (SPD), both weakened by the elections, finally reluctantly renewed their left-right "grand coalition" or "GroKo" last week.
All party members are entitled to vote in the postal ballot which started on Tuesday and ends on March 2 on a coalition deal for Europe's biggest economy which could decide the future of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In 2015, she voiced her concerns that "if we open up [the definition of marriage] to become a long-term responsible partnership between two adults, then other demands can't be ruled out, such as a marriage between close relatives or between more than two people", which prompted fierce criticism from the SPD, Green Party and the German Left for comparing homosexuality with incest and polygamy.