Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Angela Merkel survives power grab attempt by her protege

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer failed to secure enough political support to outmanoeuvre the German Chancellor

Leader of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (L) chats with Chancellor Angela Merkel before a session of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group meeting on May 14, 2019 in Berlin. AFP 
Leader of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (L) chats with Chancellor Angela Merkel before a session of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group meeting on May 14, 2019 in Berlin. AFP 

An attempted power grab by Angela Merkel’s protege backfired over the weekend as Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer failed to win the necessary political support to push Mrs Merkel aside.

Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer, often referred to by her initials AKK, was the preferred candidate to succeed Mrs Merkel as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in a party vote in December 2018. She was bound to take Mrs Merkel’s place when her term ends in 2021.

Instead, the chosen successor battled to oust the German Chancellor before her time is up, arguing that splitting the party leadership from the chancellorship is damaging the party.

Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer is said to have sent a message to Mrs Merkel urging her to resign and run instead for the presidency of the European Council to help solve Europe’s deep-seated crisis. She also called a party conference for June 2 without informing the CDU leader.

The power grab failed as Wolfgang Schaeuble, president of Germany’s lower house of parliament and a former finance minister, said he expected Mrs Merkel to remain chancellor for her full term.

Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer backed off in an interview published Sunday and embarked on a charm offensive to demonstrate her loyalty to the German chancellor.

“Angela Merkel is the chancellor until 2021,” Funke Media Group quoted Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer as saying. “I have to do my work as party leader and that’s what I’m concentrating on.”

A handover within the legislative period does not correspond to German law and Mrs Merkel’s attempt to hand over the leadership of Germany to someone who would preserve her legacy are now in danger.

Doubts are mounting within the party that Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer will hold enough sway to run for Germany’s top political job two years from now.

If her bid to follow Mrs Merkel is permanently derailed, the succession in Europe’s largest economy would be thrown wide open.

This would have dire implications for the European Union, where Mrs Merkel stands as the last bastion of conservative European values amidst sprawling nationalist and authoritarian groups.

Emmanuel Macron, the young French President who also shares grand plans for a tighter European Union, is neck-and-neck with nationalist Marine Le Pen in the latest polls, also partly due to his choice of a junior ally.

Nathalie Loiseau, dubbed “Renaissance woman”, is the standard-bearer in Mr Macron’s EU campaign calling for the rebirth of Europe. Formerly a diplomat and top civil servant, Mrs Loiseau only became a politician a couple of years ago and has struggled to deal with the scrutiny that accompanies public office.

Last month, she came under fire when a French newspaper revealed that she ran on a student election list that included far-right candidates while at university. She was also accused of normalising homophobia in a comic book she wrote with her son, in which she shows a young Polish boy saying: “Two boys getting married in Poland? Never in your wildest dreams.”

A poll released last month showed only 18 per cent of respondents had a positive view of Mrs Loiseau compared to 35 per cent who had a negative view.

Mrs Loiseau also attracted criticism earlier this year when she joked that she had named her cat "Brexit" because he "wakes me up every morning miaowing to death because he wants to go out, and then when I open the door he stays in the middle, undecided, and then gives me evil looks when I put him out."

Under her leadership, the Renaissance list has struggled to gain momentum. The European Parliament elections will be the first major test at the polls for Emmanuel Macron since being elected president in 2017.

Updated: May 20, 2019 06:50 PM

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