Merkel Feels Heat After Allies Urge Speedier Hunt for Successor

(Bloomberg) -- Angela Merkel is under growing pressure after party allies said the process of selecting a new heir should be accelerated, potentially spelling an early exit for the German chancellor if she fails to contain a spiraling crisis.

A day after her handpicked successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, announced she would no longer pursue the top job, the influential head of Merkel’s parliamentary caucus and a top official from the Bavarian CSU sister party of her Christian Democrats joined a chorus of voices demanding a quicker resolution.

An accelerated time table could make it more difficult for Merkel to serve out her fourth term, which is slated to end in September 2021.

Merkel Feels Heat After Allies Urge Speedier Hunt for Successor

Ralph Brinkhaus, the CDU/CSU caucus leader, said Tuesday there “quickly” needs to be a decision about who will run to replace Merkel and suggested a party conference to settle the issue should be brought forward from December.

“If we spend three quarters of a year debating about personnel, that’s also not a good thing,” Brinkhaus told reporters in Berlin. “On the other hand, it is the case that we need to make decisions in the party, so we should take the time to take the appropriate decisions.”

The attack on the succession plan -- which foresees a candidate selected by this summer and approved at the December convention -- raises the question of whether Merkel can hold on to power. Whoever is chosen may decide to try and push her out before the end of her term or trigger early elections.

While AKK, as Kramp-Karrenbauer is known, presented the timetable, Merkel was seen as approving it by pledging to involve herself closely in the process. Now she needs to decide whether to publicly disown it.

‘Decisions Now’

“Parties need to be led, so the time frame that was put forward yesterday was in my view no time frame that has a chance of being implemented,” the CSU’s parliamentary leader in Berlin, Alexander Dobrindt, told reporters. “We need decisions now to achieve clarity.”

Brinkhaus and Dobrindt weren’t alone in their criticism. CSU party leader Markus Soeder and the CDU premier of the state of Hesse, Volker Bouffier, also want the succession process to be expedited.

For Merkel, her entire legacy is riding on who takes over. While AKK, dubbed mini-Merkel by local media, held off Friedrich Merz -- a challenger from a more conservative faction within the party -- in a tight contest in December 2018, he is now back in contention, and there is a history of bad blood between him and Merkel.

The renewed contest to replace Merkel will determine the party’s future direction at a time of global upheaval, from trade disputes to the environment and role of the European Union in the aftermath of Brexit. Germany, along with France, set the mood music in the EU and a more conservative party leader will inevitably alter the power dynamics.

Merkel, who was at the height of her powers during the Greek crisis, has seen her stature diminished on the domestic stage by the refugee crisis of 2015 that also saw the rise of the far-right. In fact, winning votes back from Alternative for Germany, will be one of the key challenges for whoever takes over from her.

So far, potential contenders have held their fire and nobody has called for breaking the coalition and calling a new election. The theory goes that as long as Merkel is overseeing the succession process, a more centrist candidate could have the upper hand.

AKK was unable to stamp her authority on the party since taking charge of the CDU in December 2018 and was humiliated last week when a local chapter in eastern Germany defied her orders and threw its lot in with the AfD.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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