Ger­many’s most pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal party chooses its suc­ces­sor to Merkel. Page

Pick is wry, a mod­er­ate — and a woman

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page - By Ka­trin Bennhold and Melissa Eddy

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.

Thomas Lohnes/Getty Im­ages

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.

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