Who is Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new leader of Germany's CDU?

Erika Holt
December 9, 2018

Germany's Christian Democrats Party chose Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer Friday as its next leader, who will replace Chancellor Angela Merkel after 18 years in the post. She won the leadership with 517 votes out of 999 votes cast by delegates. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer narrowly defeated Friedrich Merz, a one-time Merkel rival, in a run-off at the party congress in Hamburg.

"I have my own mind and that has led to conflict with Angela Merkel", the 56-year-old recently told the Frankfurter Allgemeine daily.

The person who heads the CDU is normally expected to become the next chancellor in Germany, but, first, the woman many see as Merkel Mark II has big problems to fix - namely uniting and breathing new life into a divided old party, at the same time as bringing back CDU voters who've given up on it. He says the party needs to start "a real change of generations".

But for the first time since 1971, CDU delegates were on Friday being given the opportunity to elect their new party leader from among several candidates. She shares many traits with her powerful mentor, including steadiness, pragmatism, and political acumen (she was state premier of Saarland for years), although she has been trying to subtly set herself apart, calling for stricter migration laws and a tougher response to Russian Federation over its recent aggression against Ukraine. Kramp-Karrenbauer said she wants to ensure that the CDU avoids the fate of shrinking center-right parties in France and elsewhere.

The third candidate, health minister Jens Spahn, appears to have less chance of winning.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, has differentiated herself from Merkel on social and foreign policy by voting in favour of quotas for women on corporate boards and by taking a tougher line on Russian Federation.

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Pointing to the rise of populism worldwide and what she called a breakdown of shared Western values, Merkel said the order she had championed was at risk.

At present, the centre-right bloc is polling under 30 per cent. Merkel's fourth-term governing coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats has lurched through a series of crises since taking office in March, and the CDU has lost supporters both to the liberal Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany. Whoever wins will be favourite to run for chancellor in the next election, though that isn't automatic. Merkel, a mentor to the newly elected successor, smiled broadly and looked happier than she has in months, as she now faces a less politically turbulent transition when she hands over the reins of government at the end of her term as chancellor in 2021.

Merkel, 64, has presided over Europe's most populous country and powerful economy for 13 years. He won 157 votes.

"Whether it's the rejection of multilateralism, the return to nationalism, the reduction of worldwide cooperation to deal-making or threatened trade wars. hybrid warfare, destablisation of societies with fake news or the future of our European Union - we Christian Democrats must show in the face of all these challenges what we've got", she said.

National broadsheet Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Schaeuble's move signalled that the CDU's long-festering divisions, thinly veiled by unity behind Merkel, could well break out in the open after the conference. CDU delegates at the congress in Hamburg also held up signs saying "Thanks boss".

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