BERLIN : German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party Friday announced a surprise weekend news conference at which she is widely expected to announce plans to seek a fourth term in elections next year.

Following weeks of speculation whether she would remain at the helm of Europe’s top economic power, Merkel, 62, will address reporters at 1800 GMT Sunday after a meeting of leaders of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.

German media and senior conservatives have been saying for weeks that Merkel would seize the opportunity of the meeting to throw her hat in the ring, ahead of her party’s annual congress starting December 6.

A Merkel re-election bid, which polls indicate would have a strong chance of succeeding, will be welcome news in many capitals seeking an anchor of stability after the dual shocks of Brexit and Donald Trump’s election as US president.

Merkel, who has led Germany since 2005, is widely regarded to be Europe’s most powerful leader.

But despite ever-louder calls for her to declare whether she would run again in a general election expected in September or October 2017, she has only said she would make the announcement “at the appropriate time”.

She repeated the line with a smile at a joint news conference with outgoing US President Barack Obama in Berlin Thursday.

Obama, who has worked closely with Merkel on issues ranging from Russia’s role in Ukraine to free trade, praised her as an “outstanding partner”.

“It’s up to her whether she wants to stand again... but if I were here and I were German and I had a vote, I might support her,” he said.

As Obama exits the stage, many observers say Merkel’s importance as a defender of Western values will only continue to grow, with some calling her the new “leader of the free world”.

Merkel has been popular among voters for most of her time in power, but her decision to let in more than one million asylum seekers over the last two years has eroded some of her support.

It has also revived the fortunes of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which has harnessed many Germans’ anxiety about migration.

A poll released Friday showed that Merkel’s conservatives would draw 32 percent of the vote if the election were held this weekend.

The Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s right-left ruling coalition, were a distant second with 23 percent, followed by the opposition Greens with 13 percent.

The AfD scored 12 percent in the poll by independent opinion research institute Infratest dimap.