News
10 Feb 2020, 14:42
Julian Wettengel

Merkel confidante decision to quit as CDU leader reopens dispute over party's direction

Clean Energy Wire

German chancellor Angela Merkel’s anointed successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has announced she will step down as conservative party (CDU) head at the end of 2020 and not run for chancellor, possibly further destabilising the European economic powerhouse’s already shaken grand coalition government. “I have declared that I do not wish to run for chancellorship, otherwise the situation has not changed for the time being,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer, widely known by her initials AKK. “As far as I am concerned, there is no impact on the stability of the grand coalition.” She said she will remain party chair until a new leader is found at a planned conference in December. Moreover, she will also remain in her position as defence minister, Kramp-Karrenbauer added.

Her decision reportedly surprised the CDU party leadership. It followed days of political turmoil after a vote in the state legislature in Thuringia for new state premier last week saw the CDU  backing a candidate from the pro-business FDP - in tandem with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). The move was widely perceived as breaking a political taboo against working together with extremist parties in Germany. Analysts said Kramp-Karrenbauer's move heralds a renewed struggle for power within the CDU and the German government, which will largely be focussed inward until the next federal elections, currently planned for autumn 2021."This is where the struggle for direction within the CDU will get fully underway - and will certainly also herald a phase of destabilisation," Andrea Römmele, political scientist of Hertie School of Governance, told public broadcaster ARD.

More conservative candidates which had lost the last leadership contest to AKK – such as long-time Merkel rival Friedrich Merz – could now run again. CDU delegates had elected Kramp-Karrenbauer in December 2018 with a slim majority over Merz. The small majority had laid bare the deep division within the party which has grappled over the past few years with the rise of the right-wing populist AfD and Merkel’s approach to modernise the party – which many members consider a shift to the left. In particular her decision to keep borders open during the 2015 influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees has deeply divided her party and the country. Government officials and observers saw the election of AKK as ensuring relative continuity in German policy, including in energy and climate policy. Since the vote, however, Kramp-Karrenbauer has struggled through a series of mishaps, such as her cack-handed response to a video by a 26-year old youtuber. In a nearly 1-hour long video with over 7.5 million viewers youtuber Rezo had attacked the CDU for its record on issues important to younger people, including climate policy. These mishaps have sowed doubt about her ability to lead the country effectively.

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