German elections: Who will replace Angela Merkel?

ITV News Europe Editor James Mates takes a closer look at how Germany and the UK's relationship will play out following the retirement of Chancellor Angela Merkel

Germany is about to embark on a new political era without its outgoing chancellor, Angela Merkel, as the country gears up for a historic election in a matter of days.

Mrs Merkel's imminent retirement from front-line politics means Sunday's national elections will be the first for 16 years without her quietly formidable figure at the helm.

Almost a whole generation has grown up under her leadership since the former chemist took office in November 2005.

And Germany could be on the brink of major political change as there is a possibility her party could be driven into opposition as the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), led by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, lead the polls for the first time in over a decade.

This week it's crunch time for centre-right candidate, Armin Laschet - of Mrs Merkel's party - Annalena Baerbock for the Greens, and Mr Scholz, as they enter their final few days of campaigning.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Polls show Mrs Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is trailing by a few points, and after several strong debates, Mr Scholz is currently the frontrunner to succeed the outgoing chancellor.

When questioned on future relations with the UK and whether they would improve under his leadership, Mr Scholz told ITV News in Esslingen: "We as a country in the centre of Europe, and as a country with a very strong economy, will have to work very hard that this union will prosper. 

"And obviously there will be good relations with the United Kingdom.

"This is what the European Union wants and this is what Germany wants, and I will support very much." 

Mr Scholz was on Monday summoned to appear before lawmakers to face questions over an investigation of an anti-money-laundering unit that resulted in a recent police search at his ministry.

He and his Social Democrats have raised questions over the necessity and motivation of the September 9 searches at his ministry and the justice ministry, which also is run by his centre-left party.

Investigators are looking into suspected obstruction of justice by unidentified employees of the Financial Intelligence Unit, or FIU, a unit of Germany’s customs service.

They say they have been investigating since last year because indications of possible money laundering from banks to the FIU weren’t passed on to police and judicial authorities.

After what he called a “very lively” meeting with opposition parties to discuss the matter, Mr Scholz strongly defended his work.

“I took the opportunity to explain once again that the last three years were probably the best years for the positioning of our authorities regarding the fight against money laundering and terror financing,” he told reporters.

"We have achieved more in the past three years than in the last 30 years.”