Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, speaks to members of the media during a visit to the HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA) in the port of Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Merkel Pressured by Her Successor to Resign After EU Election

(Bloomberg) -- Angela Merkel is feeling pressure from her chosen successor to quit as German chancellor after this month’s elections for the European parliament, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

With Merkel’s Christian Democrats expected to lose ground in the May 26 vote, their leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, sent a message to Merkel urging her to resign and called a party conference for June 2 in order to try to force her hand, one of the people said. AKK, as Kramp-Karrenbauer is known, did not warn Merkel of the conference and suggested she should run for the presidency of the European leaders council, the person said.

Merkel Pressured by Her Successor to Resign After EU Election

In public, AKK has insisted that Merkel should see out her term, and a spokeswoman for the party leader pointed to those comments when contacted by Bloomberg News.

After becoming CDU leader late last year, AKK has struggled to gain traction in polls and in the party, as nods to the right wing ended up alienating many of her more liberal supporters.

AKK’s attempt to speed up Merkel’s exit may not only fail but also backfire. Despite growing pressure, the chancellor is determined to serve her full term in office until September 2021, said the two people who asked not to be named because the talks were in private. Within the party there are growing doubts that AKK would still hold enough sway to run for the country’s top job in two years.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, president of Germany’s lower house of parliament and a former finance minister, said he expects Merkel to remain chancellor for her full term. A handover within the legislative period “is not easy,” nor does it correspond to German law since the constitution promotes a stable government, he told public radio Saturday.

If AKK’s bid to follow Merkel is permanently derailed, the succession in Europe’s largest economy would be thrown wide open, potentially giving the chancellor’s conservative enemies a chance to seize power. AKK’s victory over Friedrich Merz for the party leadership in December was supposed to have ruled out that possibility. 

The scenario that AKK used to try and convince Merkel was this: after a poor result for their party in the EU election, the German leader would run for the presidency of the European Council to help solve Europe’s deep-seated crisis. The pro-European Social Democrats, their junior coalition partner, would be forced to back AKK as the next chancellor, because otherwise they would appear to be blocking a solution to the EU crisis, the argument went.

Earlier this week Merkel gave a clear answer. “I’m not available for any political office, wherever it is, and that includes Europe,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

The proposed transition was particularly unappetizing to Merkel because it would probably involve a cabinet post for her rival Merz, whom AKK is considering for a possible role in a future government, one of the people said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.