Rethinking Europe

German Politics: Advantage “Mini-Merkel”

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is widely seen as being close to Merkel. She seems to benefit from a little “Merkel nostalgia.”

Credit: Paul Blair www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is widely seen as being close to Merkel. She seems to benefit from a little “Merkel nostalgia.”
  • Since Merkel announced that she is stepping down as party leader in December 2018 and will not seek re-election as chancellor in 2021, her poll ratings have gone up.
  • With AKK at the helm of the CDU, Merkel may have a 60% chance to still be chancellor in December 2019, with Merz, the chance may be a mere 40%.

A bout of Merkel nostalgia seems to be taking hold in Germany. One indication of this mood shift is that Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has moved into the pole position to succeed Merkel as CDU party leader.

The center-right CDU will elect Merkel’s successor in less than two weeks, on December 7.

After four of eight regional party conventions ahead of the vote, a poll among CDU members shows a rise in support for “AKK“ to 38%, up from 35% two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, there are losses for her close rival Friedrich Merz (to 29% from 33%) and for Jens Spahn (6% instead of 7%) according to ZDF Politbarometer.

AKK is widely seen as being close to Merkel. She seems to benefit from a little “Merkel nostalgia.” Since Merkel announced that she is stepping down as party leader in December 2018 and will not seek re-election as chancellor in 2021, her poll ratings have gone up. A clear majority of Germans now wants her to serve out her full term.

The centrist AKK would find it easier than the more conservative candidates Merz or Spahn to work with the center-left SPD and prevent the SPD from bringing down Merkel as chancellor by leaving the coalition with the CDU/CSU next year.

Still an open race

The race to replace Merkel remains open, though. The regional CDU conventions in the two biggest German states, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg, are still ahead this week.

Also, the vote on December 7 will be taken by the 1001 CDU party convention delegates. They may not heed what current opinion polls of party members suggest.

Still, with more support for AKK as CDU leader and for Merkel as chancellor, the probability has risen further that the transition from Merkel to her successor will be smooth and that Merkel can remain chancellor until the next regular election in 2021 if she wanted to do so.

With AKK at the helm of the CDU, Merkel may have a 60% chance to still be chancellor in December 2019, with Merz, the chance may be a mere 40%.

Limited impact on future German politics

In any case, the economic and political impact of the change at the top of the CDU now — and even of a potential change in the composition of government next year — would remain limited.

German politics largely moves by a de facto consensus between the major mainstream parties who usually have to team up to pass initiatives through the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.

The net result of the most significant change that may happen, a new chancellor Merz heading a new coalition (CDU/CSU-Green-FDP), would be a number of new faces, a slightly different style, an earlier closure of some coal power stations and an early abolition of the solidarity surcharge to the income tax.

All in all, it would probably amount more to tweaking at the edges than to a major policy shifts.

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About Holger Schmieding

Holger Schmieding is chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London. [United Kingdom] Follow him @Berenberg_Econ

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