Germany’s most powerful political party chooses its successor to Merkel. Page
Pick is wry, a moderate — and a woman
HAMBURG, Germany — She is a moderate centrist with a humble leadership style and wry sense of humor. She does not boast. But she has a track record of forging unlikely consensus — and winning elections.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new leader of Germany’s most powerful political party and likely future chancellor, sounds a lot like the current one. That is her greatest strength and her greatest weakness as she prepares to take over from Chancellor Angela Merkel, a towering figure both loved and loathed inside her party and her country.
Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union chose its new leader on Friday, in a closely watched vote by party delegates who selected three candidates: Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer and two men who had vowed to take the party to the right.
At a time when voters elsewhere in Europe and the world are clamoring for radical change and are turning to populist — and often male — leaders promising easy answers to complex global problems, Germany’s biggest party on Friday opted for the opposite: a woman succeeding another woman with a nuanced political program that above all represents continuity and stability.
But Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, who was handpicked by Ms. Merkel as a preferred successor this year and has been called “Mini-Merkel” in the German media, will have to strike a careful balance in her effort to unite her party and ultimately her country.
In one sense Ms. KrampKarrenbauer’s victory over her two male rivals was an endorsement of Ms. Merkel’s liberal legacy — and a mandate to preserve it.
But it was an unusually narrow win. With nearly half the votes backing candidates who were openly critical of Ms. Merkel, Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer will have to work hard to differentiate herself from the chancellor — and to emerge from her shadow.
“I have read a lot recently about what I am and who I am: Mini. A copy. Simply ‘more of the same,’” she said Friday in an impassioned appeal. “Delegates, I stand before you as the person I am, the person who life has shaped me to be, and I am proud of that.”
Unlike Ms. Merkel, who grew up in the former East and was a Lutheran, Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer hails from the West and is a Roman Catholic — as are most members of the Christian Democratic Union. And unlike Ms. Merkel, she has children.
A Roman Catholic who married at 22, Ms. KrampKarrenbauer is the main breadwinner in her family; her husband stopped working to help raise their three sons. But she voiced opposition to same-sex marriage even after Ms. Merkel softened her stance.
Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer had supported Ms. Merkel’s decision to welcome a million migrants to Germany. But she adopted a tougher position in handling the roughly 7,000 refugees who arrived in her home state of Saarland.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer reacts Friday after receiving the most votes to become the next leader of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) while Angela Merkel walks to the back at a federal congress of the CDU in Hamburg, Germany.