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Abortion, Russia, Migrants …: How “AKK”, Who Succeeds Merkel, Tries to Distinguish

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, new president of the CDU, is described as the heiress of Angela Merkel, even as her creature. She tries to differentiate herself from her cumbersome mentor, particularly on societal and diplomatic issues.

The Christian Democrat Union (CDU), the German conservative party headed by Angela Merkel for 18 years, made the choice of continuity on 7 December by putting Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a loyal Angela Merkel, at her head.

The vote of some 1001 delegates gathered in Hamburg for the occasion, however, proved very tight and could therefore augur difficulties to come to maintain the cohesion of the movement that has led the first European economy for 50 of the last 70 years.

The current number two of the CDU, 56, won in the vote with only 51.7% of the votes against the rival of always Angela Merkel, the millionaire Friedrich Merz . The latter intended to make a sharp right turn compared to the centrist cap printed for nearly two decades by the Chancellor. 

The appointment of the so-called “AKK” opens the doors of the chancery to this Sarroise still almost unknown two years ago in Germany. And it also increases the chances that Angela Merkel will be able to complete her Chancellor’s mandate in 2021, as she wishes, despite the severe political setbacks suffered by her majority for three years .

His minority government partner in the coalition, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), was relieved to see that the CDU was not going to be right. “You take over from a big policy,” said its president Andrea Nahles, before proposing “a good collaboration”. 

“The CDU will continue to turn left”

At the announcement of the results, the majority of the delegates present in a hall of the fair of Hamburg packed up, some chanting “AKK! AKK! Very moved, the happy elected went to the podium where she kissed Angela Merkel, his mentor. This mother of three, who has spent most of her career in Saarland, has endorsed her mentor’s centrist policy.

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“With it, the CDU will keep its course to the left,” said a cheeky leader of the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD), Alice Weidel. Indeed, “AKK” was competing for the presidency of the CDU with two men eager to break with the legacy of Angela Merkel in the hope of recovering the electorate party further to the right after the arrival of more than a million migrants in the country: the business lawyer, Friedrich Merz, beaten a breath in the end with just over 48% of the vote, and the “young” health minister Jens Spahn.

In order to preserve the unity of the CDU family, “AKK” nevertheless promised them to work with them in the future. It will also try to detach gradually, as the next federal election will be held, except unexpected, in 2021, the shadow of his heavy predecessor. Defending herself from being a “mini-Merkel”, as her detractors call her, she insisted on highlighting her differences. “I am what I am,” she said after her election, also referring to her more radical positions than those of the Chancellor on certain issues of society or immigration.

To be different from Merkel: a necessity rather than a desire

While it may seem difficult to find any real differences between Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Angela Merkel, at least in terms of ideas, the first was distinguished from the second by opposing the same-sex marriage . In declaring that it might open the door to incest and polygamy, it had also sparked controversy even in his party. “AKK” is often presented as a curator on societal issues: for example, she has argued against a deletion of the famous paragraph 219a of the German penal code, which represses advertising for abortion

The one that was still little known in Germany a year ago has also had to position itself on the inevitable migratory issue , both to compete with its competitors at the head of the CDU and political necessity. She sent cautious reproaches to Angela Merkel about the opening of borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants in 2015. Partisan of a hardening of the migration policy, she went so far as to demand the expulsion of any refugee committing a crime – a measure that is debated within the AfD. 

Another subject on which “AKK” was keen to differentiate itself: the foreign policy of Germany, a question that has become central again in Berlin under the leadership of Angela Merkel, after long years of relative discretion on the international scene. In the midst of  renewed tensions between Ukraine and Russia after the incident in the Sea of ​​Azov , the latter said in an interview with Reuters, to be in favor of the United States and the European Union reflecting to close their ports to Russian ships. A tone significantly different from that adopted by the Chancellor, who had moderated the heat of Kiev, calling on Ukraine to restrain after the request made by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to send NATO  to face Russia.

At 64, Angela Merkel has been leading Germany for thirteen years. It can certainly form a good tandem with “AKK” until 2021, but other obstacles are likely to lead to early departure. Many do not see it survive the European elections of May 2019, if the traditional parties (CDU and SPD) are sanctioned again in the next regional elections. It would then be a rather unglamorous stage release for Angela Merkel and an entry on the track more than delicate for “AKK”. His opponents do not fail to recall that his enthronement at the head of the CDU does not make the official candidate for the Chancery.

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Written by How Africa

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