Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung via Flickr

The German Health Minister has announced his intention to stand as leader of the party for when Angela Merkel steps down.

Germany’s Health Minister, Jens Spahn, has announced that he is standing as a candidate in the Christian Democratic Union of Germany’s (CDU) leadership election. The election was announced following Angela Merkel’s decision to stand down following recent poor electoral performances.

If Spahn wins the election, he will become the first openly gay person to lead his party, as well as the country. Spahn came out as gay in 2012, and went on to marry his boyfriend in December 2017 after same-sex marriages were legalised in Germany.

However, the odds are not currently stacked in Spahn’s favour. Spahn has only received two endorsements, the CDU’s distict branch in Borken and Alexander Vogt, the chairman of the Lesben und Schwule in der Union.

And in opinion polls, Spahn’s highest result came from a Forsa poll on 3 October when he had 22% of the vote. Since this, he usually receives only single figures, whereas his main rivals get between 25-43% of the vote.

Speaking to Reuters, Helmut Metzner from the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, said that Spahn’s sexuality could hold him back. “I don’t think that this conservative party is ready to put forward an openly gay chancellor or party chair,” he said.

German political commentator, Alan Posener, made similar comments, saying: “Several CDU people that have told me openly that if Spahn became leader of the party they would leave, either because he’s reactionary, or because they feel a Christian party can’t have a gay leader.”

If Spahn does beat the odds he’ll become the sixth openly LGBTQ head of state, joining former Icelandic prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, former Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo, Luxembourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel, Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Serbia’s prime minister Ana Brnabić.

The leadership election for the CDU takes place from the 7-8 December.