Angela Merkel – The World’s Most Powerful Women will be resigning as the leader of the Christian Democratic Union and as the German Chancellor and the struggle for the replacement has already begun. The leadership position of the Christian Democrats is doubly important – this is the ruling party in Germany, and its leader has the greatest chance to head the federal government. This means that the upcoming elections for the head of the Christian Democratic Union may become the elections for the Chancellor of Germany.
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The day after the elections to the Landtag of the State of Hesse held on October 28, Angela Merkel blew up Germany with a statement that she did not intend to stand for elections as the leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), who headed the long 18 years.
Angela Merkel’s statement caused a sensation because it actually became the beginning of the end of her political career. During the political crisis that arose after last year’s elections to the Bundestag, when they began to speak openly about her resignation as Chancellor, many said that she would continue her political career in Europe (in the European Union) or world organization such as the UN. However, in her statement, Angela Merkel seemed to bring complete clarity to her future. She finishes the provisions of the Federal Republic of Germany for almost three years as Federal Chancellor and retires.
There is still time to nominate candidates for the post of the new CDU leader. The annual conference of Christian Democrats, at which the elections will be held, most likely December 6-8 and the three main candidates have already been identified. The appearance in the list of applicants named Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, former Minister-President of the State of Saar, and now General Secretary of CDU, is quite predictable. The 56-year-old Annegret is also called the ‘mini-Merkel’. She is also her protege. Despite the fact that Frau Merkel did not prepare for her shift, it was under her guidance that Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer came to this high post, and in recent months was considered her successor.
The second candidate is the Minister of Health of Germany Jens Spahn. He is the exact opposite of AKK. First, Jens is 38 years old and secondly, he is a critic of Chancellor Merkel and, therefore, does not enjoy her support, which may be decisive in the election of the party leader.
The third candidate is Friedrich Merz, a well-known corporate lawyer and leader of the Atlantik-Brucke organization, and is not a Merkel supporter, because he, by all accounts, lost more than all other German politicians after she came to power. Of course, other names can appear in the ballot paper, but it is obvious that the struggle will unfold between this troika.
According to observers, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has the highest chances. Formally, the Federal Chancellor has no right to support any of the candidates for the post of CDU leader, but the fact that AKK is its protege, even in the absence of official support, can play an important role in the upcoming elections. Despite all the recent events testifying to loss of Merkel’s trust among the Germans, her authority both in the party and in Germany is still high and fluctuates at the level of 50%. However, judging whether it is authoritative enough to tilt the scales on the side of Annegret is not very clear now.
Angela Merkel nominated Angela Krump-Karrenbauer for the post of general secretary of the Christian Democrats in February of this year. The fact that Annegret is little known in the international arena and did not occupy high positions in the federal government does not mean that she is an inexperienced politician and is also little known in Germany itself. Before becoming the CDU General Secretary, she headed the government in the Saar for seven years and managed to gain authority among the Christian Democrats, not to mention, of course, about the Sahars. The months spent at the post of the party’s chief secretary, in which she was engaged in the daily life of the party, and also, at the request of Angela Merkel, prepared a new party program, allowed her to strengthen her authority among ordinary Christian Democrats, which, of course, can be a decisive trump card in for the place of party leader.
AKK, a lawyer is a supporter of traditional sexual relations and opposes same-sex marriage. She has solid experience in electoral struggle. Moreover, there are many victories in her service record, which is another of its advantages over Span. For example, it was she who stopped the elections in the Saar at the beginning of last year, the ex-leader of the Social Democrats, Martin Schulz, who was then on an obvious rise and which many predicted to future German chancellors.
Now German political scientists say that critics may have been quick to give her the nickname ‘mini-Merkel’ and call her ‘the shadow of Merkel’. It is possible that its support for Merkel’s open door policy, which, in general opinion, is the main cause of all the problems of the Chancellor in the past three years, has been greatly exaggerated. So, on this side, there should not be any special problems in the party, a considerable part of whose members do not support the Chancellor in matters of migrant policy.
At the ‘household’ level, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is also doing fine. She is a mother of three children and gives the impression of an exemplary housewife that in Germany. Annegret is an exemplary Catholic and regularly attends church. This is also a plus. Should appeal to rank and file members of the CDU and its calm nature. In this regard, the similarity with Merkel is striking – Annegret never makes rash and hasty decisions.
The political platform of the ACC – social conservatism, combined with a commitment to the principles of a market economy, is now in high demand in Germany. Having come to power, she, most likely, will not change the political course of her predecessor.
As for the international arena, the ACC here has nothing to boast about – it is, incidentally, just like its rivals – beyond the borders of the FRG is little known. In July, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer made a big US tour with lectures and gave a great speech, which can be called a “program” at an important event – the meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) in Santa Fe. As the American press wrote, the performance of a little-known German politician was very well received by American political heavyweights.
Despite his youth in Germany, Jens Spahn is well known. At least in this part of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, he is hardly inferior. And if we take into account his unconventional sexual orientation, then in terms of fame with a scandalous tinge certainly surpasses. By the way, sexual orientation in spite of the fact that same-sex marriages are recognized in Germany, to which ACC is negative, and generally sympathetic to such things will hardly be a big plus for him in the elections. On the other hand, perhaps, one should not exaggerate the conservatism of the German voters. At the very least, to say that unconventional sexual orientation puts a fat cross on his chances of becoming a CDU leader will also be a mistake.
Jens Spahn is 38 years old, which by political standards is, of course, not much. By virtue of his youth, he enjoys the greatest prestige among the young Christian democrats.
Jens has long criticized Angela Merkel’s policies. The migrant policy of the Chancellor is particularly critical of him. Despite the disagreement with Merkel on a number of issues, she is not shy and not afraid to voice openly, AKK is clearly the same as Angela towards the political center, then Jens is the undoubted leader of the conservative wing of the party. His authority in the right wing of the Christian Democratic Union grew so much after several years of work in the Bundestag that, despite political differences, Angela Merkel decided to offer him the portfolio of the Minister of Health in the new government. By the way, the government of Spahn is not new. In the previous office, he worked as deputy head of the Ministry of Justice.
Again, in contrast to the Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer Spahn behaves rather outrageous for a big politician. For example, he does not see anything wrong in that he seems to be unshaven in public. At the same time, Jens often says what he thinks and is reputed to be a frank and tough politician.
He also differs from the main rival and a clear tendency to make not always well-thought-out and balanced decisions. Frankness, at least at the level of ordinary party members, can perhaps be considered a plus, but recklessness is more likely even at such a level minus.
Jens Spahn lives in the fashionable district of Berlin with her husband, a journalist by profession and, by all accounts, looks more like Green than an ardent conservative. He also opposes wearing the hijab, dual citizenship and tax increases. Jens is also an ardent opponent of the open door policy, which is still protected by Angela Merkel and, by the way, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Spahn opposes the dominance of the English language in Germany and the automatic granting of German citizenship to children of foreigners born in the country. He is friends with the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and the US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who, if necessary, can help him with the establishment of contacts in Washington.
The third contender for the post of CDU leader, 62-year-old Friedrich Merz, is difficult to attribute to supporters of Angela Merkel even with a good imagination. This means that, of course, you should not count on her help, even if it is unofficial and secret.
Merz and Merkel have long-standing accounts – she very dexterously bypassed him a decade and a half ago, when both were still members of the Bundestag and he headed the parliamentary faction of CDU/CSU. Merkel became the federal chancellor, and Merz’s political career went down and in 2009 he even left the German parliament. Friedrich became a renowned lawyer and investment consultant, and also created the Atlantik-Brucke organization, which advocates the strengthening of ties with the United States. This means that Friedrich Merz can count on the support of the American establishment. On the other hand, it is obvious that now the presence of strong ties in Washington and the capitals of other states now for ordinary German voters may not be so much a plus as a minus.
Friedrich Merz is the idol of businessmen and financiers. He now heads the board of the German branch of the large financial company BlackRock Inc. A conservative of political convictions, he advocates tax cuts for businesses and is an ardent opponent of multiculturalism, so beloved by German liberals. Not surprisingly, Merz is the idol of German business. However, it is not very clear whether the support of businessmen and financiers will be able to outweigh the obvious minus, consisting in a long absence in big politics.
Another obvious minus of Friedrich Merz should also be remembered: it will be much more difficult for Christian democrats to head the party than to join coalitions with center-left parties, and without this, it seems, judging by the realities of the political life of Germany, the CDU is in no way.
Friedrich Merz is known among German politicians as an intellectual. And again, it’s far from a fact that a big mind will help Merz defeat his rivals.
Speaking about potential candidates for the post of new leader of CDU, first of all, we should mention 57-year-old Armin Laschet, who last May won a historic victory in the most populated land of Germany – North Rhine-Westphalia and now heads its government.
Laschet has not officially announced his participation in the election of the party leader. Obviously, he is aware that his chances are slim – a long and well-known proximity to Angela Merkel can now play against him.
The name of 45-year-old Daniel Günther, Minister-President of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein is also mentioned. On the national political horizon, Günther appeared only last year, when Merkel brought a very important victory in the elections to Schleswig-Holstein. By the way, in this northern land, in power is a tripartite coalition, which, in addition to the CDU, includes the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens. The same ruling coalition only throughout Germany unsuccessfully tried to create Merkel last year, but ran into an FDP failure.
Daniel Günther, according to political views, like Merkel, is a centrist. This year, he has already created a sensation, stating that the CDU should seriously think about an alliance with the Left Party in the eastern lands.
Speaking about the election of a new CDU leader, there one more incident to remember, after an impressive series of pyrrhic victories in the land elections, in which Christian Democrats gained more rivals, but at the same time suffered very significant losses, party members are well aware that the Christian Democratic Union needs change and fresh blood. In this regard, the most favourable position in Jens Spahn.
The White House’s first reaction to Angela Merkel’s decision to leave the post of CDU leader was restrained. In the Trump administration, party elections are considered an internal affair of the German Christian Democrats. On the other hand, knowing about the passion of American politicians, including, first of all, Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to pry into other people’s affairs, we can safely consider this balanced and diplomatic reaction only to the first, made in the wake of Merkel’s speech ocean loud statements in favor of one or another applicant.
As for Russia, the reaction has been unclear. On the one hand, the election of the leader of the CDU is, of course, the internal affair of the ruling party in Germany, but on the other hand, it’s about the ruling (at least for now) party. The Kremlin, of course, cannot but worry who will head both the CDU and, quite possibly, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany. Moscow hardly likes the close ties between Friedrich Merz and America and the overt conservatism of Jens Spahn. Most of all, at least at the initial stage of the election campaign, when candidates are just beginning to make loud statements about their views and programs, Russia would be arranged at the head of the Christian Democratic Union by the calm and predictable Annegret Kramp-Karrrenbauer.
If we talk about Christian Democrats, then in December they will have to choose between preserving the more or less centrist course of the Christian Democratic Union, taken by Angela Merkel, who as a whole, obviously, will be followed by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, and will choose Jens Spahn if he wins in December.