In the recent times, Europe has been undergoing certain substantial modifications, in both political and diplomatic terms, driven by the major European countries. One of the strongest economy of the continent, Germany has witnessed one such significant transformation in its political arena. On Friday, the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to succeed Angela Merkel, who will be Germany’s chancellor for now. Karrenbauer, who is the selected candidate of her predecessor, is the first leader of CDU after 18 years.
In a runoff vote on Friday, Health Minister Jens Spahn was eliminated in the first round, leaving Karrenbauer, Merkel’s close ally, and Friedrich Merz, one-time Merkel rival, in the race. However, Karrenbauer narrowly won by 517 votes to Merz’s 482 votes.
Karrenbauer has taken over the CDU when it was in desperate straits— the distressed state of its coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), drooping poll numbers and shocking state election results. She is being perceived as a ray of hope, not just for the Christian Democrats, but for overall political landscape of Germany.
How Karrenbauer triumphed the ballot?
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, widely known as ‘AKK’, is not new to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). She first came in association with CDU during her high school days in 1981, and since then has possessed several positions of responsibility within the party.
In 1984, the 56-year-old lawyer was elected to city council of Püttlingen, where she was born, and became the chairwoman of the city’s CDU association in 1985. She also became a member of the regional board of the Young Union in Saarland, from 1985 to 1988. Besides, from 1991 to 1998 she served as a policy and planning officer for her political party in Saarland, under environment minister Klaus Töpfer.
In 1999, Karrenbauer became the interior minister of the state of Saarland. She later was elected as the Minister-President of the Saarland, becoming the first woman to lead the government of Saarland and fourth woman to head a German state government. Earlier this year, she also became the general secretary of the CDU with 99 per cent from the party.
The newly elected leader of CDU has been quite a popular leader in the party. She is mostly considered to pose a strong sense of reliability, which is mostly attributed to her origins in the western German state, Püttlingen.
How Karrenbauer is a hope for German Politics?
The timing that Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer chose to become the leader of CDU, has exposed her to a challenge of enhancing the flagging electoral fortunes of the party after Merkel’s reign of 18 years, and opening new chapters in the future.
However, a two-way challenge still remains for her— wanting to support Merkel and signaling to move in a new direction. Karrenbauer has often been regarded as “mini-Merkel”, a reputation she has been trying to get rid of since her campaign. During her candidacy, she said about the Merkel era, “One cannot arbitrarily continue in the same vein, neither can one dismiss it.”
There exist some significant differences between the two women. Kramp-Karrenbauer has been described as an economic centrist. She has backed the open-door policy towards migrants by Merkel. However, unlike her predecessor, Karrenbauer has admitted that grave mistakes have been made through Merkel’s immigration policies. Besides, she has urged for a ban on refugees with criminal convictions being allowed back into Germany.
In contrast to Angela Merkel, Karrenbauer has pledged to listen to the party more. She also vowed to be less submissive and more willing to challenge the status quo. “I will be less inclined to accept as immutable fact that things are the way they are,” she said.
On the social front, Karrenbauer has been regarded as conservative. As she is a staunch Catholic, she had been seen opposing same-sex marriages, abortion integration, and other such issues. However, it cannot be denied that Karrenbauer has always had a liberal approach towards women rights. She also became a chairwoman of the Women’s Union, in 1999.
Karrenbauer’s win as the leader of CDU has saved the drowning ship of one of the most influential political parties in Germany. There are high hopes among the party members and the civilians that Merkel’s successor will pave a new vision for German’s political scenario.