Angela Merkel, leader of Germany's opposition Christian Democratic Party (CDU) has announced the appointment of Volker Kauder, a 55-year-old legal expert and member of the CDU's parliamentary group as the party's new secretary general. The move follows the resignation of Laurenz Meyer on Wednesday. Meyer stands accused of continuing to receive payments from a company he once worked for, energy giant RWE, and other perks after he was elected to his post in 2000. On Wednesday Meyer said he was stepping down because his work was "hurting the party more than helping it." Meyer's resignation comes just two weeks after Merkel launched an appeal for party unity at its annual congress in Düsseldorf, after two other leading figures stepped down. The conservatives have seen their support eroding over the last six months and have seen a more than 20 percent lead in opinion polls whittled down to around seven percent. The party faces key elections in two regions over the next few months and the results will probably decide whether Merkel will challenge Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the next general elections in 2006.