(Bloomberg) — The leader of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union has been forced to fend off a challenge to her planned bid to become the next German chancellor the day after a “bitter” regional election loss.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who succeeded Merkel as CDU leader last year, confirmed that the head of the party’s youth wing questioned her position in an executive board meeting in Berlin on Monday. AKK, as she’s known, said that she intends to be the candidate for the country’s top job in the next election and that any party members wanting to question that can do so at next month’s party conference.
“I have taken on this responsibility,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters Monday, citing her victory in the leadership race late last year. “Whoever thinks the question needs to be decided now, this fall, they have the opportunity to do so at the party conference” on Nov. 22-23.
Friedrich Merz, whom AKK defeated in a close ballot in December to lead the party, earlier in the day took a swipe at her leadership on Twitter, saying the CDU “can no longer ignore or simply sit out” the loss in Thuringia.
The latest episode adds to a growing feeling that the twilight of Merkel’s chancellorship is not going as planned — the economy is slowing dramatically and her designated successor is failing to gain traction. AKK stumbled repeatedly in her efforts to win back voters from the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, committing a series of gaffes and communication blunders. The CDU lost 11 percentage points to place third in a Sunday ballot in the eastern state of Thuringia, behind the anti-capitalist Left party and AfD.
The CDU youth wing under its leader Tilman Kuban earlier this month called for a membership vote to determine who the party’s chancellery candidate will be, effectively undermining AKK. The party chairwoman said she would stand by the CDU’s historic principle that the chancellorship and CDU leadership go “hand in hand.”
“If that weren’t the case, we would really be feeling the turmoil that we have in the party,” AKK said in Berlin. Merkel has announced that she won’t stand for a fifth term as chancellery in the next election, due in 2021 at the latest.
The insurrection may still be contained within the party leadership. The CDU tends to do things by the book and is unlikely to easily abandon the chief it elected only 10 months ago.
Earlier this month AKK riled the Social Democrats, the junior the coalition partner, by proposing a security zone in northern Syria that would likely involve German troops without consulting them.
The episode underscored a growing perception among some party officials that AKK, who forged her political career in regional politics in the state of Saarland, is slow to take counsel from officials outside a small circle of advisers.
(Adds AKK roll-out of Syria plan in final paragraphs.)
–With assistance from Arne Delfs.
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