Angela Merkel's Party Elect Her Replacement And There's Some Similarities

Germany’s Christian Democrats have played it safe.

By opting for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel as party leader, they have voted for a centrist who is long on party unity and short on major policy initiatives.

Merkel’s decision to stand down as leader of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is part of her slow, stage-managed exit from German politics and in Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, the party has chosen a successor from the same safety-first mold.

Dubbed “Merkel 2.0” by opposition parties, Kramp-Karrenbauer was the continuity candidate in the leadership campaign, less bold in her policy proposals than rival Friedrich Merz.

Angela Merkel and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Image: Getty Images.

“The CDU has opted for centrist continuity. And it let Merkel have her way, one more time,” said Carsten Nickel, managing director at political consultancy Teneo. “Today’s close result shows: the party is as split as German society.”

After her narrow victory - by 517 votes to 482 - over Merz, Kramp-Karrenbauer’s first priority is to unite the CDU after a series of electoral setbacks that threaten its role as Germany’s leading “Volkspartei”, or big popular party.

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In a short speech to accept the party leadership, she called for “all the factions, all members, everyone who carries responsibility to move forward with the goal that we share - to remain the big Volkspartei of the center.”

Her first act as leader was to invite her two rivals to take the congress stage with her in a show of party unity.

Angela Merkel and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Image: Getty Images.

Kramp-Karrenbauer has little time to waste.

An election in Bremen next May is the first of four regional votes next year. In October, the CDU lost over 10 percentage points in another state election, in Hesse. Merkel announced she would stand down as party leader after that damaging result.

After a robust campaign for the CDU leadership, Kramp-Karrenbauer must now try to engineer a rebound in next year’s state votes - a tough task that will soak up her time and energy and leave her little bandwidth for fresh policy initiatives.

Teneo’s Nickel said the close leadership result “means continuity in Europe: beyond Merkel’s personal leadership in the Council, don’t expect bold initiatives from Berlin. The CDU will continue to be busy with itself.”

Featured Image: Getty Images.