Infighting hits Merkel's party before vote on successor

Clay Curtis
December 7, 2018

A former state premier in Saarland, where she led a three-way coalition, Kramp-Karrenbauer has a reputation for uniting support across the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and a talent for striking alliances with other parties. The politician is a supporter of the German Chancellor's policies and has been often referred to as Mrs Merkel's "protege" or even "Mini Merkel".

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a 56-year-old Merkel acolyte, won the vote to succeed Merkel as head of Germany's Christian Democrats (CDU).

By contrast, Mr Merz takes clear positions that appeal to rank-and-file party members hungry for a more clearly defined party after 13 years under Dr Merkel as chancellor. Chancellor Merkel has led the centre-right CDU for nearly 20 years, but has decided not to stand again for the post when her current and fourth term as German Chancellor comes to an end. She moved her party relentlessly to the center, dropping military conscription, accelerating Germany's exit from nuclear energy, introducing benefits encouraging fathers to look after their young children and allowing the introduction of gay marriage.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer has said she wants to improve on Ms Merkel's legacy and has suggested she would encourage debate within her party on issues such as immigration to encourage new proposals that could become government policy.

"Angela Merkel is one of our era's most globally respected leaders, a statesperson of formidable intellect, commitment, empathy, and principle", said Margaret Wang, president of the Harvard Alumni Association.

Merkel announced in October she would give up the reins in her party, though she plans to serve her current term as chancellor.

Merkel, 64, is quitting the helm of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) after a series of poll setbacks rooted in controversy over her liberal refugee policy.

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"I wasn't born as chancellor or as party leader", she said.

They were said to be reasonably close, and the lack of communication between the two raised eyebrows at the time.

In the first round, Kramp-Karrenbauer won 450 votes, Merz took 392 votes and Health Minister Jens Spahn was eliminated with 157 votes.

Pointing to the rise of populism worldwide and what she called a breakdown of shared Western values, Merkel said the order she had championed was at risk.

She was elected to the German parliament in 1990 and was elected secretary-general of her party in 1998.

While Merkel remains popular, AKK inherits a diminished party which is now polling at roughly 30 percent, far below the about 40 percent enjoyed during Merkel's heyday.

Outlining the multiple challenges facing Germany, from rapidly changing technology to climate change and a global shift away from multilateralism to defending national interests, she said: "In times like these, we will defend our liberal views, our way of life, both at home and overseas".

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