Who will be the new Angela Merkel? Who will follow their CDU presidency after eighteen years? 1001 delegates are allowed to vote today at the party congress of the CDU in Hamburg. There is really something to choose: Does the party make a radical break with the past and with Merkel, or is change gradual?
There are two big competitors: the technocrats and “anti-Merkel” Friedrich Merz and the experienced politician and Merkel confidant Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Also CDU Health Minister Jens Spahn participates in it, but according to analysts and surveys no chance.
The one who wins will be the most important person in the game alongside Merkel. There is also a good chance that the winner will be a candidate in the next elections. Who are Merz and Kramp-Karrenbauer?
Friedrich Merz, the “anti-Merkel”
“My name is Friedrich Merz, Merz with an E”. When Friedrich Merz (63) presents himself on the day he announces his candidacy, he sounds like James Bond. Probably no coincidence, because the 63-year-old businessman wants to be seen as a new strong leader if the man orders this.
Merz is back. At the beginning of this century he is CDU faction leader. He is considered a great promise, but is suddenly thrown out of his throne by Merkel. A painful event that Merz could never let go.
After a few years, he changes the business policy. He does. As a commercial lawyer and member of the supervisory board of various companies, including the asset manager BlackRock, he earns a fortune.
With this fortune he is not for sale, because this causes suspicion in Germany rather than admiration. It does not help him that BlackRock carries out an investigation for tax fraud. Critics also say that as a multimillionaire and owner of two private planes, he does not know what is going on in the “normal population”.
Merz wants to strengthen the party’s conservative and economic profile. He promises to win back the voters who have switched to the right-wing populist alternative for Germany (AfD). He receives support from the influential SME lobby within the party and the CDU members on the right.
The party star Wolfgang Schäuble last surprised by expressing his preference for Merz. “He is what the country needs now,” he said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Should Merz get the presidency, the party waits for a turbulent time. Merz’s relationship with Merkel is absolutely bad. He himself says he can work well with the Federal Chancellor. But that’s a nice show, experts say. “He will not spend five minutes with her in a room and do everything to end her chancellor prematurely,” says Merz observer Michael Bröcker.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the confidant of the Merkel
In the speeches of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, AKK for short, the word experience comes back dozens of times. It is her “unique selling point”: As a former Prime Minister of the Saarland, she has proved that she can win elections, that she can win voters for the CDU. Their opposition candidates can not say that. Even in her current role as Secretary-General she has already shown that she can build bridges and avert crises.
It is no secret that Merkel AKK would rather see her as her successor. That’s an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. The advantage is that CDUs who are not waiting for a revolution, but support someone who is gradually pulling the party more into the center. The disadvantage is that AKK is considered ‘Merkel light’. And within the CDU, the need for change is palpable after eighteen years.
The comparison with Merkel applies only partially. In terms of style, they look similar. Like Merkel, AKK does not have a big ego, it astounds opponents with their case knowledge and does not let them intimidate. In terms of content, it is in many ways more conservative than Merkel. She wants, for example, a tougher approach to criminal asylum seekers. She also expressed herself more clearly in ethical matters, for example, by equating marriage with gays. More than Merkel addresses the Christian department within the party.
“AKK is much bolder than Merkel, she risks much more risk,” says journalist Eva Quadbeck, who wrote a book on AKK. “She also moves more easily among the people, she disguised herself as a carnival and went through the crowd with a mop, Merkel would never do that.”