Germany in leadership crisis as Merkel's successor quits

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer says she won't be seeking the German chancellorship next year, reflecting a growing split within the Christian Democrats after a recent endorsement of a far-right candidate.

Michael Sohn/AP
On Feb. 7, 2020, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, chairwoman of the German Christian Democratic Union, withdrew her bid to succeed Angela Merkel in Berlin as chancellor after the party's surprising shift to the right.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's designated successor unexpectedly threw in the towel Monday, plunging her conservative party into deeper crisis as it struggles to agree on its future political direction after losing votes to the far right.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told leading members of the Christian Democratic Union that she won't be seeking the chancellorship in next year's election, upending Ms. Merkel's plans to hand her the reins after more than 15 years in power.

Ms. Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin that Germany's long-time leader stood by her decision not to run for a fifth term in 2021, despite the latest development.

Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer's announcement reflects the growing split with the Christian Democrats exposed last week in its handling of the election of a governor in the state of Thuringia, where regional party lawmakers voted with the far-right Alternative for Germany party to oust the left-wing incumbent, ignoring advice from Berlin leadership.

The move broke what is widely regarded as a taboo in post-war German politics around cooperating with extremist parties.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is still Germany's defense minister.

It was unclear how the latest developments would affect Ms. Merkel's earlier plans for her succession. A shift to the right in Ms. Merkel's center-right party could trigger a break with Ms. Merkel's junior coalition partners in Germany's federal government, the center-left Social Democrats, and increase the chances the country will hold the next general election early.

Among the names currently being bandied around as future party leaders were Health Minister Jens Spahn and Friedrich Merz, who were beaten to the leadership by Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer in December 2018. Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, is also being mentioned as a possible contender.

While Mr. Spahn and Mr. Laschet are considered centrists in the Merkel tradition, Mr. Merz has tried to appeal to the conservative wing of the party that has flirted with the far-right Alternative for Germany. A lawyer and former party veteran, Mr. Merz was sidelined by Ms. Merkel before she became chancellor in 2005.

The far-right Alternative for Germany party welcomed Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer's resignation, as did Germany's former domestic intelligence chief, Hans-Georg Maassen, a vocal figure on the right of Ms. Merkel's party since his ouster in 2018.

Peter Altmaier, Germany's economy minister and a close Merkel ally, said the Christian Democrats were in "an unusually serious situation."

Current polls have Ms. Merkel's conservative block holding steady at about 28% support nationally, followed by the left-leaning Greens at about 22%.

Yet the Social Democrats are struggling with only about 14 % support, about the same as the far-right Alternative for Germany.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.