Ger­man con­ser­va­tives pitch for women’s vote to suc­ceed Merkel

Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer and Merz neck and neck in race to lead CDU party Re­cent polls show most fe­male vot­ers would like Merkel to re­main in of­fice

The Irish Times - - World News -

The two front-run­ners to suc­ceed Ger­man chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel as Chris­tian Demo­crat (CDU) leader pitched for the sup­port of women in the party yes­ter­day, af­ter polling showed that views of Ger­many’s first fe­male chan­cel­lor dif­fered markedly by gen­der.

Who­ever wins the con­test to suc­ceed her at next month’s party con­gress will be in pole po­si­tion to be­come chan­cel­lor, and with sur­veys show­ing the two lead­ing can­di­dates neck and neck, ev­ery vote counts.

An­negret Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer, the party’s cen­trist gen­eral sec­re­tary who is seen as the con­ti­nu­ity can­di­date, was the favourite of 35 per cent of CDU sup­port­ers polled for ZDF tele­vi­sion.

Also pitch­ing to the party’s women’s union in yes­ter­day’s hus­tings was Friedrich Merz, a busi­ness­man and lawyer who is re­turn­ing to pol­i­tics af­ter 10 years in the pri­vate sec­tor, most re­cently work­ing for as­set man­ager Black­Rock in Ger­many. He had the back­ing of 33 per cent, while health min­is­ter Jens Spahn was far be­hind on 7 per cent.

De­ci­sive

The fe­male vote could be de­ci­sive, with re­cent polls show­ing that most fe­male vot­ers would like Dr Merkel to re­main in of­fice, while a ma­jor­ity of male vot­ers would like to see the woman who has dom­i­nated Eu­ro­pean pol­i­tics step down af­ter 13 years.

“We need more women in the party,” said Ms Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer, re­flect­ing that women made up barely a quar­ter of the party’s mem­ber­ship – a fac­tor that could count against her given polling that shows she is more pop­u­lar than Mr Merz among women.

“This is the end of the era,” Ms Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer told re­porters in Ber­lin this week. “We have to thank An­gela Merkel for a great deal. My ex­pe­ri­ence is . . . that one al­ways stands on the shoul­ders of one’s pre­de­ces­sor,” she added, stress­ing the need for po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity in un­cer­tain times.

On im­mi­gra­tion, she said Ger­many needed “to work out a way for peo­ple here to feel at home – peo­ple who have lived here a long time and peo­ple who have ar­rived more re­cently”, with ref­er­ence to the up­heaval caused in 2015.

Ms Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer’s ad­van­tage over the other two can­di­dates is that she has won an elec­tion – al­beit in the small west­ern state of Saar­land – and served as state pre­mier there. She is on the CDU’s left on eco­nomic pol­icy, be­ing a strong ad­vo­cate of the min­i­mum wage. Be­fore the 2013 na­tional elec­tion she sug­gested the top rate of tax be raised to 53 per cent.

‘‘ The CDU should re­main one of two peo­ple’s par­ties in the repub­lic

So­cial con­ser­va­tive

But she is con­ser­va­tive on so­cial is­sues, op­pos­ing ad­ver­tis­ing for abor­tions, and caused con­tro­versy in 2015 by say­ing al­low­ing same-sex mar­riages could open the door to in­cest and polygamy.

Mr Merz, an eco­nomic lib­eral who en­joys the back­ing of Ger­many’s still male-dom­i­nated busi­ness com­mu­nity, also im­plied that the party should do more to bring women in, hold­ing up the equal op­por­tu­ni­ties leg­is­la­tion that binds pri­vate com­pa­nies as a pos­si­ble model.

Who­ever wins is ex­pected to be­come the CDU’s can­di­date for chan­cel­lor at the next na­tional elec­tion in 2021. Dr Merkel has said she plans to serve her fourth term in full, though there has been spec­u­la­tion this might be dif­fi­cult if Mr Merz or Mr Spahn won. Both have said they would work with her.

Both ac­knowl­edged they would have work to do restor­ing a once dom­i­nant and broad-based “peo­ple’s party” that has been bruised by suc­ces­sive elec­toral setbacks.

“The CDU should re­main one of per­haps two peo­ple’s par­ties in the repub­lic,” Mr Merz said, in­sist­ing that the CDU needed to hold the po­lit­i­cal cen­tre and re­cap­ture vot­ers who had strayed to ex­tremes such as the far-right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) party. – Reuters/Bloomberg

PHO­TO­GRAPH: MICHAEL KAPPELER/ DPA/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Ger­man can­di­dates for the lead­er­ship of the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union (CDU) party, from left: Friedrich Merz, An­negret Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer and Jens Spahn.

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