Merkel’s party ponders successor
▶ In choosing chief, CDU mulls response to rising far-right
Tensions mounted in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party on Thursday a day before a vote to decide who succeeds her as party chief, with splits deepening among party heavyweights.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier rapped former finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble for openly voicing support for corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz to succeed Merkel as chair of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
In contrast, Altmaier has plumped for Merz’s rival and Merkel’s preferred choice, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is now general secretary of the party.
“Since Wolfgang Schaeuble has now opened the floodgates, I can say that I am convinced that Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has the best chance to unite the CDU and win elections,” Altmaier told regional newspaper Rheinische Post on Thursday.
“She has done that several times under difficult conditions,” he said about the former premier of the small state of Saarland.
Although Merkel herself has shied away from publicly naming her preference, 56-year-old Kramp-Karrenbauer is widely seen as her anointed crown princess. Merz, who quit politics 15 years ago after losing in a power struggle with Merkel, has long nursed a grudge against the chancellor and is regarded by many as her nemesis.
His experience in the corporate world and his economically liberal position have secured him support from Germany’s business giants.
Those party faithful who complain that Merkel has shifted the party too far left – on issues from immigration to green energy – are also looking to Merz to bring the CDU back to its conservative roots.
Schaeuble, the parliamentary speaker, on Wednesday said he was “certain that it would be best for the country” if Merz won Friday’s vote at the party congress gathering 1,001 delegates.
Schaeuble argued that the CDU needs to win back voters who have abandoned it for the far-right party AfD.
“Friedrich Merz is someone who can send clear signals with clear concepts, who has the courage to not wait until the end of a discussion, but rather to shape it,” the CDU heavyweight told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.