New party aide close to Germany's Merkel, but no clone

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has shown her conservative party that she's still very much in charge and keen to shape its future, installing a close ally who's popular in her own right in a top party post following weeks of muttering over a difficult coalition deal.

A congress of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union is expected to elect Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Monday as the party's general secretary, a week after the chancellor unveiled her surprise choice. The 55-year-old's new job, for which she is stepping down as governor of Saarland state, could put her in a position to fill Merkel's shoes one day — if she plays her cards right.

The change comes at a critical time for the CDU following a lackluster election showing in September.