Merkel protégé Kramp-Karrenbauer succeeds her as German CDU leader

Nellie Chapman
December 7, 2018

Chancellor Angela Merkel will be replaced by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as the leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.

The favourites are CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, and Friedrich Merz, a former leader of the party's parliamentary group.

During her campaign to succeed Merkel as party leader, she repeatedly noted that she was able to blunt an onslaught by the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as it picked up seats in state after state.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, is Merkel's protege and was the continuity candidate favored by the party elite.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hand off leadership of her party on Friday after almost two decades at the helm, with the race wide open between a loyal deputy and a longtime rival. What she has said about the Merkel era became something of a slogan for her candidacy: "One cannot arbitrarily continue in the same vein, neither can one dismiss it".

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.

The new CDU leader will be chosen by 1,001 delegates who vote at the congress later on Friday.

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Party insiders say she gets on well with Merkel.

"Whether it's the rejection of multilateralism, the return to nationalism, the reduction of worldwide cooperation to deal-making or threatened trade wars. hybrid warfare, destabilisation of societies with fake news or the future of our European Union - we Christian Democrats must show in the face of all these challenges what we've got", she said.

They were said to be reasonably close, and the lack of communication between the two raised eyebrows at the time. More generous family leave, an exit from nuclear power and an end to military conscription are among her signature policies.

The third candidate - vocal Merkel critic and current health minister Jens Spahn - lost in the first round.

National broadsheet Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Schaeuble's move signalled that the CDU's long-festering divisions, thinly veiled by unity behind Merkel, could well break out in the open after the conference. She has pledged to listen to the party more than Merkel did, and to be less passive, and more willing to challenge the status quo, repeatedly using the complex phrase "the normative power of facts" ("die normative Kraft des Faktischen") to argue: "I will be less inclined to accept as immutable fact that things are the way they are".

Ahead of her election as party leader, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer went on a "listening tour" to find out what her party's grassroots wanted.

"We can't afford another year like 2018 when we fought so much", he told public broadcaster ZDF.

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