0616 GMT February 21, 2019
Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) will vote on December 8 to elect the party’s leader, in an election in which the elected is billed as the potential successor to Angela Merkel.
Merkel, who did not run for the party’s internal election last month, has said that she wants to serve the upcoming four-year mandate in full until the next federal election in 2021.
She has been the party leader since 2000 and has taken the helm of chancellery since 2005. Merkel is now looking at CDU to choose her successor.
The vote comes at a critical time for the party as it tries to cast off one of the biggest crises it has faced since the end of World War II.
The contenders are Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, aka AKK, who is a Merkel ally and CDU general secretary. Friedrich Merz, who left politics for the world of finance more than a decade ago, and Jens Spahn, the health minister in the federal government and the youngest in the race.
A survey by broadcaster ZDF published last week found that 38 percent of CDU voters are in favor of Kramp-Karrenbauer – an increase of three percentage points since the last poll two weeks ago.
That puts her ahead of fellow challenger Friedrich Merz, who received 29 percent support — a drop of four percentage points — and Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is polling at six percent. Some 12 percent of respondents said they “don’t care.”
This is while in another poll published two weeks ago and cited by Reuters, Merz stood at 49 percent support compared to 32 percent for Kramp-Karrenbauer and seven percent for Spahn.
The significant loss of CDU and other traditional parties in the last general election to the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party has become a national concern for many in Europe’s biggest economy.
Some observers even go as far as to describe the rise of AfD as a national threat for Germany in the near future.
The concerns form the rise of AfD became so obvious that even Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who had previously expressed controversial remarks against immigrants and Muslims, expressed different remarks.
In a U-turn, Seehofer said Muslims, “have the same rights and duties as all citizens of this country.” There can be “no reasonable doubt” about that, he added.
Seehofer caused controversy in March when he said that “Islam doesn’t belong to Germany,” and that “Germany has been shaped by Christianity.”
Some of the CDU politicians are now viewed to adopt more populist stances in a bid to change the party’s old liberal and conservative images.
It remains to be seen whether the upcoming new CDU leader, who is dubbed as ‘The Second Merkel,’ can play the same role as Merkel in German politics.
Hossein Ziaee is a freelance journalist.