German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday announced she won’t seek re-election in 2021 and is stepping down as the chair of the Christian Democrats Party (CDU) so the party has a chance “to get ready for the time after me.” Merkel, 64, has headed up the CDU since 2000 and has been Germany’s chancellor for the last 13 years. She said she plans to finish out her current term.
But speculation quickly turned Monday to focusing on which politician might succeed Merkel as the leader of the CDU, and, as the chancellor suggested, begin shaping the party for a post-Merkel era. According to The Daily Star, CDU Secretary-General Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is a leading contender to take the reins from Merkel in December when she will officially give up the position.
According to The Washington Post, Kramp-Karrenbauer has become known within the CDU as “mini-Merkel” and, though Merkel has yet to endorse anyone to succeed her, leading some to think she could have the inside track to becoming the party chair. But as the Post notes, Merkel’s popularity has been declining and being too closely aligned to Merkel could be detrimental to Kramp-Karrenbauer’s chances at ascending to the position.
Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, became minister-president of the federal state of Saarland, Germany’s smallest state in terms of population in 2011, and earlier this year was named as the party’s secretary-general, the second-most powerful role in the CDU. AKK, as she’s also known among colleagues, is a moderate, but is also not without controversy. Three years ago, she drew outrage when she suggested that legalizing gay marriage could open the door polygamy and incest, according to Handelsblatt Global. And as The Daily Star notes, she has also faced criticism from many on the right, like Merkel has, over the country’s immigration policy in recent years.
One way in which she differs from Merkel, though, is that she’s unabashed about describing herself as a feminist. Merkel has stopped short of doing so. “The difficulties of combining a job and a family were what led me to become politically active in the first place,” Handelsblatt Global reported Kramp-Karrenbauer as having once said. She’s also added that her husband, a stay-at-home dad who gave up his career as a mining engineer, is her “tower of strength.”
Whoever takes over as the chair of the CDU has a good shot at becoming the next Chancellor of Germany, and Kramp-Karrenbauer is not the only contender. The Washington Post spotlights a few other people, all of them men, who are considered to be in the running for the CDU chair. What’s not clear, though, is if any of those guys have as cool of a regimen for getting pumped up to participate in a political debate as AKK does.Kramp-Karrenbauer reportedly puts on AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” and pumps up the volume.