BERLIN (Reuters) – Pitching to succeed Angela Merkel as Christian Democrat (CDU) leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer yesterday promised a new chapter for Germany in which “people feel at home” here after a period of political turmoil marked by the rise of the far-right.
Should she secure the CDU leadership, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, would be in pole position to succeed Ms Merkel as chancellor.
But polls show she lags businessman Friedrich Merz, 62, in the race. Ms Merkel said last week she would vacate the CDU leadership at a party congress in December, heralding the end of a 13-year era in which she has dominated European politics.
As heir to Ms Merkel’s centrist cause, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer could probably cohabit as party leader with Ms Merkel as chancellor, which she wants to remain until the end of the parliamentary term in 2021.
Her challenge is to define her own profile distinct from Ms Merkel, while remaining loyal to the chancellor.
“This is the end of the era,” Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, who German media have dubbed “AKK” after her initials, told reporters in Berlin. “We have to thank Angela Merkel for a great deal.”
“My experience is … that one always stands on the shoulders of one’s predecessor,” she added, stressing the need for political stability in uncertain times.
“We need to work out a way for people here to feel at home – people who have lived here a long time and people who have arrived more recently,” she added, with reference to the upheaval caused by Germany’s migrant crisis in 2015.
It could prove harder for Ms Merkel to remain chancellor with Mr Merz as CDU leader, as he lost out to her in a power struggle in 2002 and has since pursued a successful career as a businessman.