Who is new CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer?

Pauline Gross
December 7, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has given an emotional farewell speech to her ruling Christian Democrats (CDU), as she steps down as party leader.

It was her toughness as a campaigner that then convinced Ms Merkel to bring Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer to Berlin to serve as the party's secretary-general, an appointment that quickly marked her out as the heir-presumptive.

German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel holds a frame with a baton she was given by Volker Bouffier (right) and Klaus Schueler (left) representing CDU members during a party congress of Germany's conservative CDU party on December 7 at a fair hall in Hamburg, northern Germany.

However, another favourite is a onetime rival of the Chancellor, former parliamentary leader Friedrich Merz.

Kramp-Karrenbauer's trump card is her record as a former state premier in Saarland, where she led a broad coalition with the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats, alliance-building skills useful in Germany's fractured political landscape.

Merkel announced in October she would give up the reins in her party, though she has said she plans to remain chancellor until the end of the current term in 2021. She moved her party relentlessly to the centre, 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.

'We kept a cool head, ' she said.

In her farewell speech, Mrs Merkel celebrated Germany balancing its budgets and told supporters that the CDU was "different from the year 2000, and that is a good thing".

Whoever wins will face towering challenges for the party, which is now drawing roughly 30% at the polls, far below the around 40% it enjoyed during Merkel's heyday.

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"I'm maintaining absolutely neutrality on the question of the personnel decision, and I think that's absolutely right", she told reporters at a reception on Thursday night.

Playing up her experience in regional government, she added to cheers and loud applause: "I learned what it is to lead - and above all learnt that leadership is more about being strong on the inside than being loud on the outside".

"The Merkel era is palpably coming to an end", political journalist and AKK biographer Kristina Dunz said.

Mr Merz, 63, who lost out to Dr Merkel in a power struggle in 2002 and is returning to politics after a decade in business, is backed by CDU members exhausted of Dr Merkel's consensual politics. "Merz could be tempted to see his revenge and lunge for power (as soon as next year)".

The contest is wide open as 1,001 party delegates convene for the two-day party conference.

Peter Altmaier, Merkel's economy minister and ally, said he was "surprised and astonished" at Schaeuble's nod to Merz - and returned the favor by endorsing AKK.

Whoever wins will face towering challenges for the party, which is now drawing around 28 percent at the polls, far below the around 40 percent enjoyed during Merkel's heyday.

Regardless of which course the CDU charts, it is ironically the SPD that could decide Merkel's fate.

Other reports by GizPress

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