• Tim Uebelen

AKK as ballast for Brussels: Why the CDU leader’s resignation is concerning

AKK, exit stage right. Photographer: Carsten Koall/Getty Images Europe

The resignation of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK) as the leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) hit the German and European political elites by surprise. However, this comes with some serious problems, which affect politics beyond German borders.

It was on Monday, 10 February 2020 at 9 am, when AKK declared her gradual resignation from her post as CDU leader in a party board meeting. It barely took minutes for the news to get out to the press. AKK’s resignation comes as the second bad news for the CDU, less than five days after her companions in Thuringia together with the far-right AfD (“Alternative for Germany”) voted for the liberal candidate running for state premier – despite all warnings from AKK. It was this “breach in a dyke” that led to her leadership’s collapse. Officially, this step has had "matured and grown within me for quite some time", according to AKK. Furthermore, she couldn’t accept to split the party leadership and the upcoming chancellor candidacy. This is what Merkel stood for since she took over the chancellery in 2005, until she nominated AKK - then Saarland’s state premier - to become her successor. Indeed, on 7 December 2018 she had been elected chairwoman at a party congress in Hamburg (Merkel’s place of birth) with 51.75 per cent of the votes against Friedrich Merz, a former chairman of the CDU’s Bundestag group during Schröder’s reign, who had been displaced by Merkel’s rise in the early 2000s. With only 18 (!) votes ahead of her opponent, this day marked the beginning of the party’s split between Merkel’s loyalists and the more conservative, neo-liberal wing, de facto led by Friedrich Merz.

AKK’s leadership had always been contentious and marked by some blunders. During carnival 2019, she caused some outrage after cracking a rather tasteless joke about intersexuals. She failed in mobilising the younger generation for her party by referring to Fridays For Future’s school strikers as truants. Albeit this wasn’t unique in the German political sphere, a Youtuber named “Rezo” published a one-hour-video entitled “the destruction of the CDU” shortly ahead of the 2019 European elections, in which he pilloried the CDU’s past policies. As a result, the hashtag #neveragain