Merkel’s Successor

The moment Angela Merkel announced her resignation as party leader of the CDU, a number of politicians put themselves in position to aspire to the post, and with it, of course, the chancellorship. Five candidates stood out, Ursula von der Leyen, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Friedrich Merz, Markus Söder (for the CSU) and, of course, the Union’s current candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet. Contrary to her usual political finesse, she had no luck in hoisting her favourites into this position. As a result, Laschet is now the party’s second-worst candidate from her point of view.

The first candidate to enter the race was Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. She succeeded her as CDU federal leader at the end of 2018, following Merkel’s resignation from the post. A difficult legacy, as one can easily imagine. So her record has also been rather mixed. In the midst of the media Greta-will-save-the-world climax, a video by Rezo appeared on Youtube, a video of destruction, in which he comprehensively criticises the government’s environmental policy and was able to provide a mouthpiece especially for the younger generation, which all too often sees itself sidelined in the current debates. Her subsequent actions could not improve this perception of the youth, as she also gave the impression that she did not take the young protesters entirely seriously. Her proposal to set up protection zones in Syria for the country’s refugees, even in her capacity as Defence Minister, also met with little approval.

The basic problem, however, was of course Merkel’s strength, who as chancellor still held the reins and did not stand by her heiress when she got into trouble. It was probably also not in her interest to give too much power to another politician. Thus, a first option for Merkel’s successor was lost and the search for something new began.

The third woman in the bunch was Ursula von der Leyen. She would also have been a good candidate to continue Merkel’s policies. However, she has a fatal flaw, which is rooted in her seemingly universally applicable incompetence. For example, at the time she was finally appointed President of the European Commission, she was under legal pressure for having deleted data from her mobile phone quickly before investigators could find it. They were looking for evidence. The so-called consultants’ affair, which, very briefly, was about the procurement of Bundeswehr equipment, which was purchased at often completely inflated prices and in which a whole series of external consultants played a major role. So, off to Brussels with her, where she can do no more damage. Even if this calculation did not work out, the second candidate was now out of the game and the men now took the initiative.

Friedrich Merz, still very narrowly defeated by AKK in 2018, now set out again. His opponent was Armin Laschet, with the support of Jens Spahn. In the meantime, the impression arose, and Merz had sensed and reinforced this, that an election was to be delayed in order to improve Laschet’s chances, as Merkel preferred. It finally took place, on 16 January 2021, and Merz lost. His speech might not have helped him directly, as it was too much focused on him and his quest for the chancellorship, more than on his quest for the CDU. Merz was clearly the candidate of the five who sees himself as furthest away from Merkel and her policies, and she probably sees it similarly. So it is not surprising that she always tried to keep him away from positions of great power. Since she was successful in this, Merz no longer played a role in the fight for the chancellorship.

So now the last, big confrontation was on the agenda. Armin Laschet as a liberal Rhinelander, Markus Söder as an opportune Bavarian. Even if it is generally assumed that Laschet would rather be Merkel’s successor, his overlaps with the liberal FDP are much greater than with Merkel’s policies themselves and Söder seems much more willing to go along with the ideologically flexible course of the current CDU leadership and in the process also make major concessions to the Greens in terms of content.

Thus, Laschet is now the candidate for chancellor who, after Merz, shows the least agreement with Merkel’s policies, and Merz is also firmly involved in the election campaign and almost certainly in the formation of the coming government. Merkel’s legacy in the CDU is now under attack

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