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Name Merkel heir quickly, analysts say

By CHEN YINGQUN | China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-18 09:29

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer speaks at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany, Feb 15, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Delay seen as increasing threat of instability and impacting elections

The ruling Christian Democratic Union party of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, needs to resolve its leadership problem as soon as possible to reduce instability and the possibility of being crushed in next year's election, analysts said.

This week, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, chairwoman of the CDU, will meet contenders who wish to take over her position after senior party members called for a quick decision on the new party leader and chancellor candidate for the election.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said she had invited "those whose names are currently circulating" for interviews.

One name that has been frequently mentioned in German media is Friedrich Merz, who narrowly lost to Kramp-Karrenbauer in December 2018 in the race for the CDU leadership.

The German news magazine Focus said Kramp-Karrenbauer will recommend a successor on Feb 24.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who has been widely seen as Merkel's successor, announced last week that she was giving up her role as party chair as well as her ambition to run for the chancellorship, shaking up German politics and fueling uncertainties over the future of the coalition government with the center-left Social Democratic Party, or SPD.

"The CDU needs to decide on its leadership as soon as possible," said He Yun, an assistant professor at Hunan University's School of Public Management.

"The longer it waits, the greater the instability will be, and the more likely it will be crushed in the federal election by smaller parties including the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Greens from the left."

Kramp-Karrenbauer's move destroyed Merkel's plans for an orderly succession, He said, adding the move could plunge the fractured party into further disarray. Merkel has led Germany for more than 15 years and has said she will not seek another term.

"The lack of orderly succession demonstrates the chasm in the CDU and could jeopardize its alliance with the SPD, which is already in trouble," He said.

Kramp-Karrenbauer announced her decision a few days after CDU legislators in the eastern state of Thuringia voted with the AfD to oust a left-wing incumbent, which breached a party rule of not working with the right-wing populist party.

"The apparent rebellion is a heavy blow to Kramp-Karrenbauer," He said.

Tian Dewen, deputy director of the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Kramp-Karrenbauer's quitting poses another crisis for the CDU. Merkel's successor must be chosen soon, as the CDU's support has continued to drop recently.

Tian said speculation about Kramp-Karrenbauer's leadership had risen in the past few months, in the wake of a series of gaffes she has made. Under her watch, the CDU suffered losses in elections for the European Parliament in May and at the regional level in September last year.

A rift between the two governing coalition partners has widened recently, particularly since the SPD changed its leadership and said it wants to renegotiate its deal with the CDU.

"Even Merkel could no longer make the kind of strong decisions she did before," Tian said. "Uncertainty in the CDU leadership may make it more difficult for the two parties to work together and even trigger a breakup."

The CDU is likely to finally choose a political figure who is relatively young, powerful and with a good public image, but it is impossible to expect the new leader "to make decisions as efficiently and in a strong style as Merkel did", whether in the CDU or the coalition government, Tian said.

"The coalition government is likely to become a weaker alliance. If the two-party dominance is being eaten away by other parties, then forming a coalition would be more difficult and Germany might fall into a state of political limbo."

If Germany, the political leader and economic engine of the European Union, is in trouble, then the EU will inevitably be affected, he said.

Separately, He said that on the European level, it is widely expected that after Merkel's retirement, the role of France's President Emmanuel Macron within the EU will be elevated, but France and Germany will still be on the same course more or less.

"However, if the CDU elects a right-wing leader who advocates working with the AfD and somehow they manage to win the federal election next year, then Germany and France, the two powers within the EU, could be in for major clashes that could have a devastating effect on the EU."

Reuters contributed to this story.



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