BERLIN (Reuters) – Veteran German conservative Wolfgang Schaeuble, a highly-respected estimate his party, has publicly backed Friedrich Merz, an early rival of Angela Merkel, to be successful her as head from the Christian Democrats (CDU) in the vote looking for Friday.

The winner are typically in pole position being the CDU's candidate for chancellor of Europe's biggest economy in the 2021 election and the outcome might even spell no more Merkel's coalition back with her Bavarian allies and Social Democrats (SPD).

The two front runners are Merkel protege and CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who leads polls of ordinary voters and party supporters, and Merz, who Bild am Sonntag weekly newspaper said is ahead among CDU delegates.

"A big part for Merz is definitely the nicest thing to your country," Schaeuble, merely loyal to Merkel as her hardline finance minister but had previously been a rival, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Wednesday.

Working with Merkel who would like to remain chancellor, the latest CDU leader shall be influential in shaping German domestic, economic and foreign policy from relations with U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to helping shape the EU.

Schaeuble argued that Merz, who lost in the market to Merkel in the power struggle in 2002 and quit politics for business in ’09, could possibly add to the CDU through providing it a stronger profile and working better featuring its Bavarian sister party.

Merz, financial liberal about the right of CDU, states he needs to halve support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), now on about 15 %, which capitalized on anger with Merkel's open-door migrant policy.

In a dig at Merkel's cautious approach, Schaeuble said: "(He) is usually a man who sends clear signals with clear ideas, who’s the courage never to wait for an end of your debate but shape it."

After deep rows with your ex-girlfriend Bavarian allies during the warm months and heavy losses for the CDU in the state of Hesse in October, Merkel announced she would stand down as party leader but remain chancellor up until the 2021 election. Which may prove impossible.

Merz, a millionaire who’s got said he wants "bold steps" to boost the commercial and monetary union, claims he respects Merkel, that has pulled the CDU on the political center ground, and is appropriate with her.

Many commentators are skeptical and is also also unclear if your SPD, also needing to boost its poll ratings that are fitted with slumped to about 14 %, can also work with him.

With the more centrist Kramp-Karrenbauer, an early premier of your tiny state of Saarland, cooperation with Merkel as well as the SPD could be easier. She insists she is not a Merkel clone, option to scant evidence she would break with Merkel's main policies.

The third candidate, trailing with the polls, is Health Minister Jens Spahn, a harsh critic of Merkel's migrant policy.

With the majority of the 1,001 delegates undecided, commentators the speeches furnished by the candidates with a party conference in Hamburg on Friday prior to the vote may very well be crucial.