Kramp-Karrenbauer inherits Merkel at the CDU-top: the balancing act - SPIEGEL ONLINE


We know the image of the last weeks: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in the middle of two large dunes, a typhus room, a self-congratulatory CDU.

But in this late Friday afternoon there are no longer three opponents side by side, but one winner and two losers. A few minutes before, the results of the second round of the presidency of the CDU were announced at Hamburger Messehalle A in Hamburg. The play-off between Kramp-Karrenbauer and Friedrich Merz could not have been much more limited after Jens Spahn had been eliminated as third in the first round: 517-482.

35 votes in advance.

You have to imagine the new CDU leader right now as a fairly resolute person. Half crying, half laugh, get up, shake awkwardly. Kramp-Karrenbauer does not seem able to fully believe that he will really succeed in Angela Merkel as a party leader. (Read the election commentary here: The Merkel Dynasty)

Obviously that was the plan. This is the only reason why Kramp-Karrenbauer offered Angela Merkel a year ago the abandonment of her premiership in the Saarland to become general secretary of the CDU – and to get used to the a & rsquo; more and the party in peace. Merkel thought it was a great idea. But the plans are often superseded by reality in politics. In this case it was the sudden loss of Merkel's authority, which eventually culminated after the election of Hesse in late October, in her announcement that she would no longer want to run for the presidency of the party. .

A week-long race

Kramp-Karrenbauer suddenly had to jump a lot faster – and she jumped. And since Friedrich Merz had already emerged from the political party and had declared his astonishing request for the party presidency and Jens Spahn had also announced his candidacy, he was suddenly a threesome battle for Merkel's successor.

Followed a week-long trip, as the CDU has not yet experienced, eight regional conferences in all corners of the Republic, an interview of candidate fireworks, no talk shows were safe from them. And while the candidates were urging for themselves, the party sometimes did not know where to go with the sudden energy. The members of the CDU rarely experienced such euphoria as at this time.

And now it's over.

The air is in the Exhibition Hall in Hamburg, where many of the 1001 delegates jump out of their seats when they hear the result of the election of the ballot. However difficult the short vote may be for the party, so much is the relief that eventually there is a decision. "It was a great cinema", says Julia Klöckner, deputy head of the party and minister of federal agriculture. But it was a thriller that eventually put a strain on the nerves of those involved.

"It was big, big cinema"

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Less than one hour before had been announced the result of the first ballot: 450 votes for Kramp-Karrenbauer, 392 for the former leader of the faction of the Merz Union, 157 for Spahn. As a result, the Federal Health Minister is out of the competition, but with just under 16% he has achieved significantly better results than expected. And the crucial question for the run-off is now: who will vote for Spahn's voters?

Time of crime at the fair in Hamburg.

The day had begun so relaxed for the candidates and many delegates, in the Michel of Hamburg with the traditional ecumenical service at the beginning of a federal party. But it would be a few hours later, very exciting, probably because one or the other had already guessed.

But first Angela Merkel says goodbye to her party. He does it as close as he can, only a good half now speaks to the outgoing president, who remains chancellor. Merkel remains faithful even to say goodbye, his speech is partly very self-deprecating, for example when he smiles and remembers the comment of a previous speech with the words "Merkel: bone-dry". In his last speech as a party leader, he once again described the great lines of It is surprising in this opening, at most, to recognize that it has not always been easy for the CDU.

Above all, however, it is also a typical speech by Merkel because she makes her farewell after 18 years of sober Protestantism. "It was a great pleasure for me, it was an honor – thank you," concludes Merkel. It will no longer be emotional. Nonetheless, he received almost ten minutes of applause and, as a gift of CDU, the director of Kent Nagano, with whom he directed the G20 gala concert at the Albaphilharmonie in Hamburg in July 2017.

The speech of his life

For emotions, others are responsible for the Hamburg exhibition hall. This begins with the candidacies of the three candidates. According to the alphabet, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is authorized to make an impressive appearance at the lectern. Everything revolves around the courage in his speech: first of all, the courage and self-confidence that the wishes of his party solve difficult future tasks.

Kramp-Karrenbauer is rhetorically inferior to his competitors, but this afternoon he could talk about his life. Dramaturgically well built, interpreted with confidence, always the heart of the attractive party. "It is more about the inner strength than the external volume", he concludes.

Then it is the turn of Friedrich Merz. Merz, who has worked as a commercial lawyer in recent years, seems to be pretty sure of his case – some supporters have spread the night before the certainty that it would be enough for him in the presidential race.

Perhaps Merz is also a bit too sure of victory.

In any case, unlike Kramp-Karrenbauer, his appearance does not give the impression of having put all his heart into this speech. The first few minutes of his speech drift away, even though Merz is known as an enthusiastic orator. Only with his attacks on AfD, his call for a clear demarcation to the SPD and others already known from the regional conference for runners, he takes speed.

But in the end it remains: Kramp-Karrenbauer has exceeded expectations with their speech, in Merz is quite the opposite. That is because he is already behind his opponent in the first round and in the end missing the decisive votes in the runoff, probably will never be clarified. But the hypothesis is close.

Jens Spahn as the last speaker appears again as one who has nothing left to lose: because he knows of his lack of opportunities. "Yes, I've also read polls, but I can tell you that it's really good to be here," he says. This is well received in the hall, as well as his appeal that the joy rediscovered of the debates should end with this congress, but must be a starting point: "Let us continue this common spirit, this joy in the debate".

The fact that Kramp-Karrenbauer is only slightly ahead of Merz will probably suggest that the CDU feels the same way. It wants to continue to discuss openly, even on highly controversial issues, such as the UN Migration Pact. It is on this Friday evening on the agenda, as after the president and all other positions have been elected to the Bureau and the Federal Executive. Finally, the delegates approve an application identical to that of the Bundestag, drawn up jointly by the members of the Union and the SPD Bundestag.

Video analysis: "The danger of a division in the party is real"

But the party is obviously not ready for a real change of course, for which Merz would have been from the point of view of his irreducible fans. With the choice of Kramp-Karrenbauer shows a bit of courage in changing, but also the desire that not everything is turned upside down.

Finding this balance is a real challenge for the new party leader. In the end, he is back on stage with the two losers because Kramp-Karrenbauer wants to demonstrate the unity of the CDU. "I want to get the party of the common people," he says. The disappointment in the field of the fans of Merz is great, Kramp-Karrenbauer will have to make an effort to regain these disappointed. Also appointing his new Secretary General could be a sign of reconciliation with the Merz camp.

Saturday wants to announce the staff.

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