An Undefined Future for Germany

Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer after being elected leader of the CDU. (Odd Anderson/AFP via Getty Images.)

Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer after being elected leader of the CDU. (Odd Anderson/AFP via Getty Images.)

Christian Democratic Union leader and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to depart from the party’s leadership, and from politics in general, was an unforeseen result of the recent elections in the state of Hesse. Merkel's judgment was that she was losing credibility with the public, which was certainly true as this was CDU’s second consecutive poor performance in state elections. However Merkel’s achievements as Chancellor for 13 years and leader of the CDU for 18 years made her one of the most important figures in European politics.

The Chancellor has been a source of constant support to Germany and many other European Union countries. Merkel’s second term as Chancellor underlined her commitment to Germany and the grit needed to lead it out of the Eurozone crisis. Her austerity measures portrayed her as a woman with purpose and determination, who wanted to protect her country at all costs.

The “open door policy” of Merkel that led to the acceptance of 1 million refugees into Germany earned her many haters including Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Socialist Union - the CDU’s sister party. Nevertheless, she stood by her policy until this year when she struck a deal with Seehofer over migration, saving her coalition from collapsing. But now with her resignation announced, the question that comes to mind is – How much longer will it last?

Merkel, even after resigning as the leader of the CDU, plans to remain chancellor until next elections. But a caveat known as the iron cage of party discipline may threaten her plans. This feature gives power to the party leader to make their party members comply with the policies of the leadership as the members represent the party and vote on legislation in the Bundestag, the German parliament. This may weaken Merkel’s ability to enforce any authority over her party’s vision in the parliament as she no longers holds the strings. Even negotiating internationally would not be as effective as the leaders of other countries are aware of Merkel’s decision to not run another term. Disregarding her voice would be an easy option.

The CDU elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also known as AKK as their new leader on Dec. 7, 2018. She secured a narrow win against Friedrich Merz, the multi-millionaire businessman and Merkel critic. AKK’s election as the new leader of the CDU showed that the party has decided to remain moderate, continuing to foster Merkel’s 18 years of legacy. As a woman she has climbed the ranks of power with an unapologetic display of political acumen. Merkel’s protégé , AKK, has had sweeping electoral successes in Saarland, Germany’s smallest state. Even though she is a supporter of Merkel’s controversial immigration policy, she holds conservative views on same-sex marriages and the dual-citizenship rights to Turks. Furthermore, she’s a religious leader representing the voices of women and youth organizations.

AKK is not exactly the breath of fresh air for the CDU considering her similarities to Merkel but shows promising capabilities to run the party better than her to say the least. The future of Merkel’s remaining political career still remains a little nebulous. Although the Election of the so-called Mini-Merkel as the new party leader has increased the odds of Merkel staying in office until 2021, a political move by AKK could tip the scales against Merkel’s  favor. With the ongoing dissatisfaction and criticism faced by the current government coalition, it is likely that the new leader will want to distance the CDU away from it and re-establish the party’s place among the public. As the confetti celebrating AKK’s election gradually settles down, more political pressure builds upon her as these decisions could leave a direct impact on Merkel’s.