Merkel's conservatives quarrel over party's course
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) argued on Sunday over whether they should return to a more conservative agenda once she steps down as party chair as contenders to succeed her gear up for the leadership race.
Support for their Social Democrats (SPD) coalition partner meanwhile hit a record low, according to a poll published hours before senior members of both the CDU and the SPD were due to discuss the parties' future courses in closed-door meetings.
Merkel announced last week that she would step down as CDU party leader in December, ending an era of nearly two decades in which she shifted the party gradually from the right to the centre.
Her decision followed two regional votes in which Merkel's centre-right bloc and the left-leaning SPD suffered their worst election results in decades while the ecologist Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) gained support.
Health Minister Jens Spahn, one of the three contenders to replace Merkel as party leader, said the CDU had watered down its profile by becoming too centrist in the past years.
"Parties must differ from another again more strongly," Spahn told Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "The way...