Berlin (dpa) – The CDU chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wants to forego a chancellor candidacy and also give up the party leadership in the foreseeable future. This announced the 57-year-old in Berlin after the upheavals surrounding the election of the prime minister in Thuringia.
She admitted that the division of office – promoted by Chancellor Angela Merkel – was a mistake: “The separation of the chancellorship and party chairmanship, the open question of the candidacy for the chancellor weakens the CDU in a phase in which politics in Germany (.. .) relies on a strong CDU. »
“We are currently feeling strong centrifugal forces in our society and in our CDU People’s Party. And we feel that it depends on us, »said Kramp-Karrenbauer. Therefore, she came to the conviction that both offices belonged in one hand again. In order to strengthen the CDU, it renounced a candidacy, but remained party leader until a party congress decided on the candidate for chancellor. Defense Minister, she said, would remain at the Chancellor’s request.
The CDU is threatened with a new power struggle just 14 months after the election of Kramp-Karrenbauer to the party leadership, which could also put the Chancellor in trouble and have an impact on the grand coalition.
The SPD immediately demanded clarity on the further course of the government partner. “The events at the head of the CDU are very worrying,” said SPD leader Norbert Walter-Borjans. “The CDU is in a directional dispute, and it has been without leadership for a long time.” The CDU must clarify its relationship with right-wing extremists. Labor minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) asked via Twitter that the coalition’s work should not be stopped by the CDU’s intra-party issues. ”Kramp-Karrenbauer emphasized that it saw no impact on the stability of the grand coalition.
The trigger for the latest upheavals in the CDU was the election of the Thuringian Prime Minister last week. The FDP politician Thomas Kemmerich was elected with votes from liberals, CDU and AfD, which was sharply criticized by Kramp-Karrenbauer and Merkel. The party leader could not prevail at the Thuringian CDU with the demand for a quick election. Kemmerich has since resigned and is only managing director.
However, Kramp-Karrenbauer said that her decision to retire had already matured and grown “for some time”. In the CDU presidium, she said, according to party circles, that there was “an unsettled relationship between parts of the CDU with the AfD and the left”. She told journalists that the party leadership had clearly supported her position, that there was “no rapprochement and no cooperation with the AfD and the left.” Any rapprochement with the AfD weakens the CDU. But the history and program of the left are “absolutely incompatible” with the principles of the CDU.
According to information from the German Press Agency, the CDU Presidium initially reacted with silence to the withdrawal announcement. The North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister and CDU Vice Armin Laschet, who is also considered a possible candidate for Chancellor and leads the largest CDU state association, was not present because of the hurricane “Sabine”. Party circles said that Merkel expressed great thanks to Kramp-Karrenbauer at the meeting. What exactly the further schedule looks like remained open at first.
Kramp-Karrenbauer has been the federal chairman of the CDU since December 2018. At the time, it had narrowly prevailed at a party congress against the former leader of the Union faction, Friedrich Merz; Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn came in an honorable third place. In addition to Laschet, Merz and Spahn, CSU boss Markus SOder was also recently acted as chancellor candidate.
SOder reacted with regret to Kramp-Karrenbauer’s withdrawal: “Because we work together very trustingly,” he tweeted. “But it is now necessary to fundamentally clarify the content and personnel structure of the CDU.”
Merz paid respect to Kramp-Karrenbauer and promised on Twitter: “I give her every support in leading the process of her successor and chancellor’s candidacy as elected party leader.”
Laschet appealed to the unity of the Union. “The challenges for our country from outside and inside are huge,” he told the dpa. He did not comment on a possible own application for the chancellor candidacy or the party chair.
Spahn expressed “great respect” on Twitter. The separation of party leadership and chancellery was a difficult situation. It is Kramp-Karrenbauer’s merit to have brought the CDU and CSU together again. “The cohesion of our party must now be our guiding principle,” said Spahn.
The CDU, CSU and SPD had spoken out on Saturday in the coalition committee in Berlin for the immediate election of a new prime minister and then an early election. This is also the aim of the Left, SPD and Greens in Thuringia. The state CDU sees no way out in a rash new election, the AfD generally finds it unnecessary.
The former SPD leader and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told the “Bild” newspaper: “We are witnessing the end of the second major People’s Party in Germany: after the SPD, the CDU is also no longer able to keep the tension within its party.” He suspect that it will not be long before the Bundestag is also elected.
Green leader Annalena Baerbock spoke of a «dramatic situation» for the country. «There is a risk that an even greater power vacuum will arise. The Union must clarify how it can support a stable government under these conditions. All parties are now asked not to use party strategy, but to keep a clear firewall against the AfD », she told the dpa.
The CDU now sees the left before a directional decision: “Open to the law a la Merz or consistently against right-wing alliances. The Greens also have to decide whether they stand for a left-wing alternative or an alliance with the CDU, »party leader Bernd Riexinger wrote on Twitter. The chairman of the AfD parliamentary group, Alexander Gauland, said that Kramp-Karrenbauer had plunged the CDU into chaos with its “Exclusion Course”.