Merkel’s pre­ferred can­di­date to be­come leader of CDU af­ter nail-bit­ing vote

The Guardian - - WORLD - Kate Con­nolly

An­negret Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer, a staunchly Catholic con­ser­va­tive ca­reer politi­cian, has been elected as the suc­ces­sor to An­gela Merkel as leader of Ger­many’s Chris­tian Democrats.

Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer won by 25 votes af­ter a nail-bit­ing sec­ond round runoff against her main op­po­nent, the mul­ti­mil­lion­aire busi­ness­man, Friedrich Merz.

Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer said she would ac­cept the post, and thanked the party for its sup­port and trust in her, in­sist­ing she would give new im­pe­tus to the party as it seeks to claw back the mil­lions of vot­ers it has lost to rightwing pop­ulists and the Greens.

“We should har­ness the boost this com­pe­ti­tion has given us, and use it to pro­pel the party’s suc­cess,” she said.

Dubbed a mini-Merkel – a ti­tle she is de­ter­mined to dis­card – Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer was not of­fi­cially en­dorsed by the chan­cel­lor, but was clearly her favourite, hav­ing been pro­pelled by her to the po­si­tion as the party’s gen­eral sec­re­tary in Fe­bru­ary.

In a veiled sign of her sup­port, Merkel made a point of prais­ing Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer for her con­tri­bu­tion to the CDU’s elec­toral suc­cess dur­ing a vale­dic­tory speech to the party on Fri­day morn­ing.

The re­sult is seen as mak­ing it more likely that Merkel will be able to see out her fourth term un­til 2021. She has ex­pressed her de­ter­mi­na­tion to stay on as chan­cel­lor for the re­main­ing three years of her term in of­fice and 56% of Ger­mans sup­port her de­ci­sion to do so, polls show.

Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer was ahead in the first round of vot­ing, se­cur­ing 45% or 450 votes, and went on to win 517 votes in the sec­ond. The vote fol­lowed a dra­matic con­test re­sult­ing from Merkel’s an­nounce­ment in late Oc­to­ber that she was step­ping down as head of the party but in­tended to con­tinue as chan­cel­lor un­til the next elec­tions.

Merz, 63, an eco­nomics lawyer who had been ousted from the post of par­lia­men­tary leader of the CDU by Merkel in 2002, re­ceived 482 votes in the sec­ond round, and 392 in the first.

He had taken the party by sur­prise af­ter parachut­ing in from his job in the bank­ing in­dus­try, in­sist­ing he could win back many of the mil­lions of vot­ers the party has lost to rightwing pop­ulism. His sup­port­ers said Merz would have been the more coura­geous op­tion be­cause he was de­ter­mined to take the party away from the cen­tre ground where Merkel had firmly taken it dur­ing her 18 years at the helm.

The vote marks a new era for the party, founded in 1945, which has pro­vided Ger­many with a chan­cel­lor for 50 of the last 70 years. Merkel told party faith­ful yesterday it was “time for a change”.

Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer – or AKK as she is pop­u­larly known – will now be viewed as a po­ten­tial fu­ture chan­cel­lor if the CDU wins the next elec­tion in 2021. The self-pro­fessed strict Catholic, who has served as the state leader of Saar­land and be­fore that was its in­te­rior minister, has a to­tal of 18 years’ lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence, all of which stood her in good stead to win the vote.

The third can­di­date in the run­ning, Jens Spahn, 38, re­fused to with­draw his can­di­da­ture, de­spite pres­sure from party col­leagues to do so when it was clear sup­port for him was weak. Spahn, who was made health minister in Merkel’s gov­ern­ment six months ago, had been con­sid­ered a fron­trun­ner to suc­ceed Merkel for sev­eral years but was pushed aside when Merz de­cided to throw his hat into the ring and won the sup­port of party heavy­weights, such as the pres­i­dent of the Bun­destag. Spahn se­cured a higher than ex­pected re­sult of 175 votes out of 999, but was not el­i­gi­ble for the sec­ond round.

More than 1,000 party del­e­gates were el­i­gi­ble to vote on what was de­scribed as the most mo­men­tous de­ci­sion for the party in nearly 50 years and one that will de­cide the fu­ture di­rec­tion not only of the CDU, but also of their coun­try and their con­ti­nent.

Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer told party del­e­gates she was “not a mini ver­sion” of Merkel, but her “own per­son”.

‘I am not a mini ver­sion of Merkel ... I am my own per­son’ Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer CDU leader


▲ An­negret Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer nar­rowly beat her main op­po­nent, the busi­ness­man Friedrich Merz

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