Friday, 14 December, 2018

Kramp-Karrenbauer wins first round vote to replace Merkel as CDU leader

Christian Democratic Union CDU chairwoman and German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the applause after her speech during a party convention of the Christian Democratic Party CDU in Hamburg Germany End of an era: Merkel passes torch to new party leader
Deanna Wagner | 07 December, 2018, 18:38

A close ally of Merkel, Kramp-Karrenbauer (known as "AKK" in Germany) is a down-to-earth, experienced politician, who was formerly the state premier of Saarland. However, it's possible elections could be called before then.

Three high-profile contenders have toured Germany to drum up support.

The vote for Merkel's successor followed a nail-biting contest and the first open CDU leadership race in nearly 50 years.

"But we won four national elections together ... and I am happy I can remain chancellor".

Both men are seen as harbouring longstanding grudges against the chancellor, after she thwarted Schaeuble's ambition to become German president and Merz's desire to remain CDU parliamentary group leader several years ago. Health minister Jens Spahn was knocked out in the first round.

Parting gift: Merkel holds a frame with a baton signed by conductor Kent Nagano and was used by him as he conducted Beethoven's 9th symphony at the Elbphilharmonie venue during the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg.

However, she is far from being always politically aligned with the chancellor, and one reason for that might be her background in Püttlingen. She moved her party relentlessly to the center, dropping military conscription, accelerating Germany's exit from nuclear energy, introducing benefits encouraging fathers to look after their young children and allowing the introduction of gay marriage. She has indicated she would implement tougher rules on migrants, telling a German newspaper that while she owes much to Merkel, they have different views on a number of issues, and criticising her predecessor's "lack of consistent explanation on migration policy".

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She also celebrated Germany's balancing its budget in recent years and its response to the eurozone debt crisis.

Kramp-Karrenbauer faced the challenge during the leadership battle of both wanting to appear to support Merkel and signalling that she would take the party in a new direction. He won 157 votes.

At present, the center-right bloc is polling around or below 30 percent.

Merkel, 64, told the CDU congress in Hamburg of her gratitude for the chance to have served as party chief for 18 years, 13 as chancellor in which she came to dominate European politics as its key crisis manager and consensus-builder.

"In hard times we shouldn't forget our Christian and democratic stance", she said.

Her reason not to stand for re-election as head of the party is seen as strategic, allowing the party - which she joined at the age of 35 following the collapse of the Berlin Wall - to recalibrate and prepare for the next election.

"Schaeuble's manoeuvre shows: the CDU of the old Germany is trying to make a comeback", news weekly Der Spiegel said.