© Reuters. CDU party leadership meeting in Berlin
By Andreas Rinke
BERLIN (Reuters) – The woman who was expected to become the next Chancellor chose not to run for the top spot, a source in her CDU said on Monday, confusing the race for Angela Merkel's successor.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is CDU chairwoman and chancellor, but has growing doubts as to whether she can replace Merkel, who has been leading Germany for 15 years, but wants to step down in the next federal election in autumn 2021.
Last week, Kramp-Karrenbauer's inability to impose discipline on the CDU in eastern Thuringia dealt a new blow to its credibility.
The regional CDU department prevailed against them by supporting a local leader, who was appointed by the Alternative Against Immigration for Germany (AfD), and thus a post-war consensus among established parties who wanted to avoid the far-right party.
Kramp-Karrenbauer's decision not to run for Chancellor leaves great doubts about Germany's future direction, as the world's fourth largest economy is flirting with a recession and the European Union is hard to define after Brexit.
Merkel has made a name for itself worldwide since 2005. It has helped steer the EU through the eurozone crisis and opened Germany's doors in 2015 to migrants fleeing the Middle East wars – a move that still separates the bloc and its country.
Sigmar Gabriel, former chairman of the Social Democracy (SPD), junior partner of the government coalition in Germany, told the mass distribution newspaper Bild that he was expecting an early federal election because the two main parties – Merkel's conservative bloc and the SPD – had problems unifying their different factions.
But the analysts have downplayed this risk.
"This is largely an internal CDU issue," said Holger Schmieding of Berenbank. "None of the candidates for the successor to AKK (Kramp-Karrenbauer) is playing with the idea of leaving the coalition with the center-left SPD and / or triggering early elections."
He put the risk of the SPD leaving the coalition prematurely at a maximum of 25%.
The 57-year-old Kramp-Karrenbauer won a vote in December 2018 to succeed Merkel as CDU chairwoman, although many were not convinced of her leadership qualities. (NL8N2823G2)
The extreme right scandal in Thuringia was the latest craze for Kramp-Karrenbauer, whose quotas fell last year after a few public gaffes, including a light-hearted carnival speech in which transsexual people made fun of.
Her former rivals for the party leadership – Friedrich Merz and Jens Spahn – circled on purpose.
Merz, a businessman, left Blackrock (NYSE :), the wealth manager, to focus more on politics, and Spahn, who is now Minister of Health, made a dynamic figure during the coronavirus crisis and flew to Paris and London to do so coordinate European and G7 response.
On Monday, shortly after the news of Kramp-Karrenbauer's plan went aside, Merz tweeted: "Now is the right time to set impulses through economic and financial policy measures."
He said tax cuts would increase household purchasing power and corporate investment.
Spahn and Markus Söder, chairman of the Bavarian sister party of the CDU, the CSU, both respected Kramp-Karrenbauer's decision and emphasized that the cohesion of their conservative alliance was now essential.
The CDU source spoke on condition of anonymity that Kramp-Karrenbauer would remain party leader until another candidate for chancellor was found.
She believes the same person should act as both chancellor and party leader, and will organize a process in the summer to fill both roles, the source added.
Kramp-Karrenbauer wants to remain Federal Defense Minister and Merkel supports them, said a government spokesman.
Alexander Gauland, honorary chairman of the far-right AfD, said Kramp-Karrenbauer had not implemented the CDU's policy to exclude the AfD, adding that such an approach was unrealistic in the long run.
"Your party base recognized this long ago and plunged the CDU into chaos with its policy of exclusion," he added.