Successor to akk: prompt decision called for

CDU/CSU politicians are pushing for a quick clarification of the question of power. Apparently, Friedrich Merz has already announced his candidacy for the presidency.

Who will succeed AKK? Merz is already planning his candidacy ahead of the talks Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa

Everything is slipping in the CDU. Actually, outgoing chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wanted to clarify her succession and chancellor candidacy at the regular party congress in December. And lead the process "from the front." But that was illusory. Kramp-Karrenbauer, henceforth a queen without a country, no longer has much to say in the upcoming process.

This is also shown by reports from Wednesday evening: according to dpa, ex-Union faction leader Friedrich Merz wants to apply for the CDU chairmanship. The news agency refers to the CDU politician’s closest circle. Merz is determined to run, knows the party base is behind him and feels encouraged by current polls, they said.

Speculation that he would be prepared to become economics minister under a possible party chairman, Armin Laschet, was a theoretical scenario, the 64-year-old’s entourage continued. Possible posts could not be distributed at present yet. At the same time it was stressed in the surrounding field of Merz, it is open for a member questioning, but not for a binding member decision.

At the same time, "AKK" had other plans: only from next week, she wants to hold talks with potential successors. According to party sources, it is still unclear whether there will be a special party conference to elect the candidate for chancellor and the new chairman. The regular party congress in December in Stuttgart is to take place in any case. Among other things, the new CDU platform is to be adopted there.

A six-month power vacuum would be fatal for the CDU

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is still acting party chairwoman, wanted to take her time to settle her succession. But several key CDU politicians ignored her announcement and pushed for a quicker decision. "The sooner sensible decisions are made, the better," CSU leader Markus Soder told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Union faction leader Ralph Brinkhaus (CDU) also warned against the danger "that we now spend a miserably long time debating personnel." Hesse’s Minister President Volker Bouffier (CDU) took a similar view. Important state associations, such as Baden-Wurttemberg, also called for a speedy decision.

The prospect of a power vacuum lasting more than six months is unattractive to the CDU at best. The media would mainly speculate about personnel, content would take a back seat. State elections are due in Baden-Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate next March. The election campaigning Christian Democrats need stable conditions in the federal government as quickly as possible.

Kramp-Karrenbauer could not ignore the appeals. An earlier party conference is likely, a CDU spokesman said Wednesday. The decisive factor is whether the interested parties for party chair and chancellor candidate come to an amicable agreement – or whether there will be a competition. After Merz outed himself on Wednesday evening with his candidacy, it remains to be seen how other hotly traded candidates will behave. Health Minister Jens Spahn and Armin Laschet, prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, could enter the race. Soder is taking himself out of the game verbally at the moment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The power-conscious Bavarian can still change his mind.

"Combat candidacies not a good signal"

Soder pleaded for the amicable solution. "Combat candidacies are not a good signal in the current situation and do not bring the necessary inner-party unity." Instead, he said, leading heads in the Union must sit down together and "honestly look each other in the eye." Spahn and Laschet have so far held back from making ambitions public. According to media reports, Kramp-Karrenbauer wants to hold talks with interested parties next week.

A contest is also conceivable. When Angela Merkel Merkel announced her withdrawal from the party chairmanship in October 2018, the CDU organized several regional conferences at which Merz, Spahn and Kramp-Karrenbauer introduced themselves to the grassroots. A party conference then made the decision for Kramp-Karrenbauer in December 2018. That’s how it could go again. "The regional conferences have proven their worth," said the CDU spokesman. But here, too, there is opposition. Soder, for example, logically finds the regional conference "not useful."

And then there’s Angela Merkel. Kramp-Karrenbauer also justified her withdrawal by saying that "the separation of chancellorship and party chairmanship" was weakening the CDU. A swiftly chosen successor would have the same problem until the regular date of the Bundestag elections in the fall of 2021. But would Merkel give up her office because of that? She is making no move to do so – and in the second half of the year, Germany takes over the EU Council presidency. Merkel could stay with the new CDU chairman until the end.