An­negret Kramp-kar­ren­bauer?

An­gela Merkel’s pre­ferred suc­ces­sor as chan­cel­lor of Ger­many won lead­er­ship of its most pow­er­ful party. So we cel­e­brate, right?

Newsweek - - News Week - WHO IS... BY MARY KAYE SCHILLING

in ger­many, they call her sim­ply AKK; even there, her name is a mouth­ful. And Chan­cel­lor AKK does have a cer­tain ring to it. Spec­u­la­tion is that the 56-yearold will win the elec­tion to run Ger­many when An­gela Merkel steps down in the fall of 2021. If An­negret Kramp-kar­ren­bauer does suc­ceed in that, she will be re­plac­ing one of the most pow­er­ful politi­cians of the modern era, one who had the great­est in­flu­ence in shap­ing the Euro­pean Union—for good and, say crit­ics, bad.

AKK beat two can­di­dates, both men. She is a mod­er­ate cen­trist who shares Merkel’s hu­mil­ity, as well as, some an­a­lysts say, a greater abil­ity to reach con­sen­sus with other par­ties. Her ré­sumé in­cludes stints as min­is­ter of in­te­rior, of ed­u­ca­tion and of so­cial af­fairs; she has been gover­nor of her home state of Saar­land for over 18 years. Fill­ing Merkel’s sen­si­ble pumps, how­ever, will re­quire more than ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union has gov­erned the coun­try for 49 of the past 69 years, and its roots are so­cially con­ser­va­tive. Over her 13 years in power, the brisk and forth­right Merkel took the CDU in a more mod­er­ate di­rec­tion; in the process, she turned Ger­many into the most pow­er­ful coun­try in Europe for the first time in a cen­tury. Af­ter grow­ing up in East Ger­many, she un­der­stood the dan­gers of na­tion­al­ism and fas­cism, and as the leader of the EU, she be­came a cham­pion of lib­eral, demo­cratic val­ues, as well as a sym­bol of sta­bil­ity at home and in the world.

Cracks in Merkel’s pop­u­lar­ity ap­peared af­ter the global fi­nan­cial crash of 2008. Crit­ics say it was her pol­icy of eco­nomic aus­ter­ity, im­posed on Italy, Spain, Por­tu­gal and Greece, that planted the seeds for the rise in pop­ulism across the EU. Those cracks deep­ened in 2015, when she wel­comed a mil­lion refugees to Ger­many, and en­cour­aged other EU mem­bers to do the same. Since then, the far­right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many party has be­come a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenger to the CDU. With 94 seats in the Bun­destag, Ger­many’s par­lia­ment, the AFG is now the third-largest party in the coun­try af­ter the 2017 fed­eral elec­tion. And na­tion­al­ist lead­ers now dom­i­nate Europe.

Kramp-kar­ren­bauer’s close as­so­ci­a­tion with Merkel (she has been called “mini Merkel”) is one pos­si­ble rea­son her win was so close. Nearly half the votes went to can­di­dates crit­i­cal of Merkel. But there are dif­fer­ences be­tween the two women, some sug­gest­ing a break from the lib­eral or­der. A Catholic mother of three, AKK has de­nounced same-sex mar­riage. And though she ini­tially sup­ported Merkel’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, her own at­ti­tudes to­ward refugees and mi­grants in Saar­land have been quite harsh.

But AKK did win, which sug­gests the CDU is open to pre­serv­ing Merkel’s demo­cratic legacy. Just how lib­eral AKK’S poli­cies will be is any­body’s guess. The next Ger­man fed­eral elec­tion is not un­til 2021, and given the cur­rent state of the EU and the world, a lot will hap­pen: Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, Merkel’s part­ner in democ­racy, is un­der siege in France. Brexit is on the hori­zon. The reach of au­to­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tions in Rus­sia and China grows longer, as the drum­beat for the im­peach­ment of the U.S. pres­i­dent grows louder. White supremacy and na­tion­al­ism are on the rise through­out Europe. And cli­mate change will con­tinue to desta­bi­lize the world, lead­ing to mass mi­gra­tion and wide­spread eco­nomic dis­par­ity.

Un­der those con­di­tions, Kramp­kar­ren­bauer will need the met­tle of Merkel—and then some.

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