Who will lead the CDU into the future?
After 18 years with Angela Merkel at its helm, the CDU will elect a new leader today, Friday. The two leading candidates in the polls, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Friedrich Merz, would take the party in different directions. Commentators follow the elections in Hamburg with great interest and explain what the vote means for Europe.
A historical moment
The decision on Merkel's successor will also decide Germany's future course, writes Kauppalehti:
“Merkel has explained that she wants to remain chancellor until the end of her term, so until 2021. But this is not certain. Her successor could try to sideline Merkel before her term ends, perhaps by organising early elections and forming a new coalition government - for example with the Greens. This is a historical moment because Angela Merkel has led the Christian Democrats in Germany for an entire generation and has been chancellor since 2005. Her successor will be among the most influential politicians in Europe. The CDU's vote will determine to a large extent whether Germany continues on its moderate course or takes a step to the right. ”
Continuation or break with Merkel era?
The Tages-Anzeiger agrees, specifying:
“Merz would like to give the CDU a clearer conservative and liberal profile. He hopes that in so doing he can attract conservatives who have become distanced from Merkel's CDU. ... Kramp-Karrenbauer wants to keep the party in the centre but ensure that conservative opinions receive more weight through debate and participation. While Merz offers the CDU a vibrant leading figure, the bridge-builder Kramp-Karrenbauer promises a broad-based, integrative political approach. Merz stands symbolically, and perhaps also politically, for the biggest possible break with the Merkel era, Kramp-Karrenbauer stands for a renewal of Merkel's political legacy, ensuring a certain continuity. As far as style, direction, and method are concerned, the CDU has a true choice.”
All more to the right than the chancellor
Despite all their differences all three top candidates, Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merz and Jens Spahn, have something in common, Mérce notes:
“In the history of the CDU up to now there has only been a single public debate before its new leader was elected. And this is the first time that three people - all of whom enjoy considerable support in the party - have run for the job. Aside from many personal and political differences, there are two striking similarities between the candidates: unlike Merkel, who grew up in the GDR, they all come from Western Germany. And regarding refugee policy they're all to the right of the chancellor.”
New party leader inherits a bunch of problems
Several chronic weaknesses that developed in Germany under Merkel will make things difficult for whoever succeeds her, Echo 24 predicts:
“Thousands of baby-boomers are retiring and - like the increasingly costly medical care - putting a heavy burden on social security funds. The energy transition is a task as difficult as squaring the circle. Germany's prosperity is too reliant on car production and will become vulnerable as soon as for example a US president starts putting up more and more obstacles to traditional export-import relations. What's more, the country has missed the boat regarding cutting-edge, key technologies. For such a rich country the availability and quality of the Internet is very poor indeed. Its Swiss, Danish and Swedish neighbours are often shocked when they log onto German networks.”