Angela Merkel’s heir apparent, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has unexpectedly quit, throwing the race to succeed the German chancellor wide open.
Kramp-Karrenbauer is stepping down as leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a position she has held since 2018. She will remain as defense minister.
Merkel elevated Kramp-Karrenbauer from the prime ministership of Saarland, on the border with France, to national politics in order to prepare her for a run in 2021. Although Kramp-Karrenbauer is socially more conservative than Merkel (she opposed marriage equality), she was seen as likely to defend the chancellor’s centrist legacy.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the woman Angela Merkel is grooming to be her successor, was sworn in as Germany’s defense minister last week, replacing Ursula von der Leyen, who was elected president of the European Commission.
The appointment came as a surprise, for two reasons:
Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was elected head of the ruling Christian Democratic Union in December, has claimed she had no interest in a cabinet position.
It was supposed to be a subtle shift to the right.
In anointing the socially conservative former prime minister of Saarland, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, as her successor, Angela Merkel signaled to Germany’s Christian Democrats that after fourteen years of her consensus politics — which even inspired a verb: merkeln — they would return to their right-wing, Christian roots, but without altogether repudiating the centrist strategy that has made the CDU so successful.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats and likely successor to Angela Merkel, has answered Emmanuel Macron’s call for a European “renaissance” in an op-ed for Die Welt. (English version here.)