BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday she won’t try to interfere with her center-right party’s choice of a new leader, a person the party will likely try to turn into her successor as Germany’s leader.

Merkel, who has ruled Germany since 2005, gave up the leadership of the Christian Democratic Union in late 2018, when Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer — clearly her preferred heir-apparent — won a three-way race for the job. But Kramp-Karrenbauer, who also serves as Germany’s defense minister, struggled to establish her authority over the party. She announced last week that she won’t seek to become the next chancellor and will give up the party leadership.

Merkel said when she gave up the party leadership that she won’t seek a fifth term as chancellor. But she said she was prepared to run Germany’s government until its term ends in the fall of 2021. She emphasized that stance again Wednesday.

“I also said, and I would like to underline this again, that I will not intervene in the question of who will lead the CDU in the future and who will become the candidate to be chancellor,” Merkel said. “My historical experience is that predecessors should stay out of this kind of thing.”

But Merkel did add “that doesn’t mean that I won’t speak with possible candidates.”

Three CDU figures are regarded as likely possible successors — former parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz; Armin Laschet, the governor of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia; and Health Minister Jens Spahn.

None of the three men has yet officially declared his candidacy. But a fourth candidate, former environment minister Norbert Roettgen, announced Tuesday that he would seek the CDU leadership.

It isn’t yet clear when and how the new party leader will be chosen, and when the party will formally choose its candidate for the chancellery.