Merkel gets boost with ally’s party win

Muscat Daily - - WORLD - Deb­o­rah Cole

The vic­tory in a party lead­er­ship bat­tle of a close ally of An­gela Merkel greatly boosts her chances of see­ing out her fourth term, but 2019 will bring new threats for the world’s most pow­er­ful woman.

As the cen­tre-right Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union (CDU) wrapped up a con­fer­ence in Ham­burg on Satur­day, Merkel (64) could cel­e­brate that her hand­picked deputy party leader An­negret Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer, known as AKK, won the race to suc­ceed her af­ter 18 years at the helm.

The ca­reer politi­cian dubbed ‘mini Merkel’ by the me­dia is now in pole po­si­tion to lead Ger­many’s big­gest party into the next gen­eral elec­tion, set for 2021.

She would then have a strong chance of re­plac­ing the chan­cel­lor when Merkel leaves the stage for good.

The CDU’s choice marked a vote for rel­a­tive political stability in Europe as Bri­tish Prime Minister Theresa May faces Brexit tur­moil and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s gov­ern­ment is rocked by vi­o­lent street protests.

Merkel made the sur­prise de­ci­sion in Oc­to­ber not to stand again for the CDU lead­er­ship fol­low­ing a string of poll set­backs.

“I don’t see her as weak­ened at all - on the con­trary, she can con­tinue to gov­ern as a pow­er­ful chan­cel­lor,” Matthias Mid­del­berg, a CDU del­e­gate from Hanover, said of Merkel, who was this week again crowned the world’s most pow­er­ful woman by Forbes mag­a­zine. “And now she can count on a party leader she can work well with.”

Stop the ex­o­dus

‘Merkel can now work with a woman she’s known for a long time and who won’t har­bour am­bi­tions of chas­ing her out of of­fice. Mean­while Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer will wel­come the chance to pre­pare her leap to the chan­cellery’, top-sell­ing daily Bild said.

News weekly Der Spiegel noted that the CDU’s mod­er­ate course un­der Merkel had kept the trained physi­cist in power since 2005.

But it warned that cen­trist con­ti­nu­ity un­der AKK could leave more con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian Democrats feel­ing po­lit­i­cally home­less.

It also al­lows the far-right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD), the third big­gest party in parliament, to seize on fears linked to mi­gra­tion and crime and pick off tra­di­tional CDU vot­ers.

Three risky state elec­tions are on the cal­en­dar next year in the ex-com­mu­nist east, where the party has made ma­jor in­roads.

Bild noted that Merkel’s fate- ful 2015 de­ci­sion to wel­come more than one mil­lion asy­lum seek­ers flee­ing cri­sis zones such as Syria and Iraq con­tin­ues to roil Ger­man pol­i­tics.

‘It is es­sen­tial for the CDU’s sur­vival to stop the ex­o­dus to­ward the AfD, to find the right words to dis­cuss asy­lum pol­icy and im­mi­gra­tion and to turn them into ac­tion’, it said.

A fur­ther risk fac­tor is the Euro­pean elec­tions next May, which are ex­pected to prove par- tic­u­larly pun­ish­ing for main­stream par­ties.

But while the CDU could suf­fer bruis­ing losses, the elec­tions could prove dev­as­tat­ing for its ju­nior part­ners in gov­ern­ment, the So­cial Democrats.

A de­ba­cle could desta­bilise Merkel’s ‘grand coali­tion’.

“Hold­ing this coun­try to­gether will be the tough­est job we face in the next year,” CDU par­lia­men­tary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus told the con­fer­ence.

Con­tinue to sulk

AKK (56) won a wafer-thin ma­jor­ity over multi-mil­lion­aire busi­ness­man Friedrich Merz, who had spent a decade in the political wilder­ness re­port­edly har­bour­ing a grudge against Merkel, who stripped him of a key party post.

Na­tional broad­sheet Sued­deutsche Zeitung said Merz’s sup­port­ers could be re­luc­tant to fall in line be­hind AKK, choos­ing to wait for her to stum­ble.

‘If they con­tinue to sulk or even openly op­pose the win­ner then this spring­time for the CDU could come to a quick end’, it said.

In a ges­ture to­ward unity, AKK nom­i­nated a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the party’s rightwing, Paul Ziemiak (33) to re­place her as the CDU’s num­ber two. He won with 63 per cent of the vote.

De­spite the chal­lenges for the party, ob­servers said the con­fer­ence still had his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance.

‘Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer marks the first time in a ma­jor coun­try of the West­ern world that a woman fol­lows a woman at the top of a rul­ing party’, con­ser­va­tive daily Die Welt said.

‘Hence it could be the first time in the West that a woman fol­lows a woman at the top of a gov­ern­ment. In the United States, they could only dream of such prospects.’

(AFP)

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel (right) and her suc­ces­sor, newly-elected leader of the Ger­many's con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union (CDU) party An­negret Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer dur­ing the CDU congress at a fair hall in Ham­burg, north­ern Ger­many on Satur­day

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