The chairman of Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has resigned following a scandal involving behind-the-scenes collusion between the CDU and the far-right Alternative for Germany faction in Thuringia’s land parliament. Karrenbauer was the official successor to Angela Merkel, who is stepping down as chancellor next year and out of German politics. After her resignation, the question of Germany’s future becomes open: for Germany, it is a political crisis.
When Germany was preparing for elections in three eastern federal states last fall, experts predicted serious problems for the “people’s” parties of Germany – CDU and SPD. The “Ossi” amassed a charge of discontent with the ruling coalition and were ready to support the votes of the main critics of the current government: “Alternative for Germany” and “Left”.
Indeed, these parties were able to improve their performance, and in Thuringia they became the leading political forces, collecting more than 20% of the votes.
However, it is not enough to win the elections – it is necessary to agree on a ruling coalition. In Thuringia, this process has turned into a tangled solitaire. The current coalition of the Left, SPD and Greens lost its majority. Other familiar combinations of political alliances were also unable to form a government.
The Thuringian Rebus could not be solved without destroying one of the taboos of the Christian Democrats, the CDU alliance with the Left or the AfD.
The party’s central leadership denied the possibility of such alliances. But local politicians looked less categorical. The result of the discord within the CDU was a scandalous vote around the figure of the new Prime Minister of Thuringia. Unexpectedly for all the winners came to the FDP candidate Thomas Kemmerich, who was supported by deputies from the FDP, CDU, and AdG. Liberals, Christian Democrats, and right-wing populists were able to effectively beat the incumbent Prime Minister Bodo Ramelov, but it was clear that this feint will not go unanswered.
The least of all went to “Alternative for Germany.” The situation with her was clear. The “unarmed” populists clung to the opportunity to take their place at the negotiating table at least on the sidelines, “shaving” the popular leader of ideological antagonists. The idea of “AdG” was insidious, but it was not worth expecting.
The main blow was taken by the Christian Democrats and liberals, both in Thuringia and at the German-wide level.
The parties attributed the deal to the devil, accused of political myopia and betrayal of democracy.
The top leadership, Christian Lindner and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (ACC) had to find a way out of the crisis.
It is difficult to say how the political future of the leader of the FDP will turn out, but one thing is certain: the scandal in Thuringia has put an end to the chancellor’s ambitions of the heiress Angela Merkel.
The ACC is hard to blame for passivity in the days when the crisis in Thuringia was just unfolding. She was relatively quick to oppose the effort vote, dissociated herself from any talk of any alliance with the Alternative and refused to support local party members in an attempt to work out new steps with them.
Alas, the result of these efforts was half-hearted. Kemmerich managed to “resign”, but only a day after the appointment, that for such crises a whole eternity.
The shrewd Turing branch of the CDU seemed to be able to stifle, but without swagger and with the feeling that the apostates remained in their opinion. The very political situation in the federal land hovered between the prospects of new elections of the Prime Minister and new elections to the Landtag. The outcome of both scenarios is difficult to predict.
Finally, Angela Merkel herself had to intervene in the situation. Perhaps this is the main sign that the Chancellor’s protege was not up to the mark. It is difficult to say whose words – a new or old party chief – the Christian democrats of Thuringia took more seriously.
As a result, on Monday afternoon, February 10, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced her resignation as leader of the CDU and refused to participate in the fight for the chancellor’s chair.
The post of Minister of Defense remains with the ACC. According to Kramp-Karrenbauer, this was done at the request of Angela Merkel.
For the second time in a year, CDU leaders put forward as a result of intra-party compromises have failed to live up to expectations. During the elections to the European Parliament, the same situation happened with Manfred Weber. The CDU’s “main candidate” never became president of the European Commission, facing pressure from other parties. The young Christian Democrat was hastily replaced by the embattled Ursula von der Leyen.
The episode with Weber, and now with the ACC, showed that experiments on artificially growing leaders are ending for the CDU unsuccessfully.
Who will replace Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer?
It is logical to assume that Friedrich Merz could have done it without problems. The millionaire lawyer was already fighting for the leadership of the CDU and was close to success. There are many influential figures around him, dissatisfied with the blurring of the ideological identity of the Christian Democrats. His supporters see him as an alternative to Merkel’s contoured policy, opponents a threat to the RIGHT-wing turn of the CDU and a possible alliance of the AFG.
However, it is unlikely that Angela Merkel will want to see an old opponent next to her in the twilight of her political career.
Merz is independent and ambitious. It will be difficult to agree with him. He may begin to redefine Merkel’s political legacy without waiting for her to retire.
Another possible candidate for the leadership of the CDU and in the future for the chancellorship is the head of the North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Lacyet. But this politician may also seem too self-reliant for Merkel.
Health Minister Jens Span, who fought for intra-party leadership alongside Merz and Kramp-Karrenbauer, is considered too young to work so responsibly.
Most likely, the issue of leadership in the CDU will be solved by a new compromise figure.
There are opportunities for “new old” names, combining great political experience and loyalty to the incumbent chancellor. Intensive consultations on this issue have already begun.