Who Will Replace Angela Merkel as German Conservatives’ Leader?

BERLIN — After 18 years under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, delegates of Germany’s conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union, plan to gather in Hamburg on Friday to elect a fresh leader who will shape the future of the party along with the country, where which remains the strongest political force.

Over the past month, the three main candidates have crisscrossed Germany, presenting themselves along with their visions for the party to eight lively regional conferences so crowded which they often had to be moved to larger venues. Some 14,000 members attended, while the events were streamed live to a different 0,000 people.

which was an unusually transparent along with democratic process for a party which has historically chosen its leaders in back-room deals, with the delegates’ vote rendered little more than a formality by one-candidate ballots. along with which comes at a time when the Christian Democrats are struggling to retain their status as Germany’s main big-tent party.

Three leading candidates made the rounds at the regional conferences, however recent polling has showed a close contest between two of them, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer along with Friedrich Merz. Each represents a different vision for a party seeking to reaffirm its conservative credentials along with win back voters who defected to the left along with the far-right in last year’s inconclusive parliamentary elections.

Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, who can be frequently referred to by her initials, A.K.K., sought to move coming from the shadow of Ms. Merkel, to whom she can be often compared, by taking a harder line toward migration along with emphasizing the conservatives’ Christian roots.

She also played up her more than three decades of service inside the party, which included a stint as Inside minister along with more than six years governing the tiny state of Saarland — proof, she said, which she can win elections. She stressed cohesiveness as crucial to the party’s success. “We will only reach which strength if we hold together,” she said.

Recent polls have shown which Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer can be favored by the German public along with several leading conservative party members. however which was Mr. Merz who brought crowds to their feet inside the important states of Baden-Württemberg along with North Rhine-Westphalia.

A former rival of Ms. Merkel who quit politics in 2009 to become a millionaire inside the earth of finance, Mr. Merz shines at the podium with broad visionary statements about strengthening tiny along with midsize companies along with halving the strength of the populist Alternative for Germany party. “We can along with we must stop which trend along with turn which around,” he said.

however his suggestions to change German laws on refugees, which are anchored inside the Constitution, along with to use the stock market to shore up pension funds raised questions about the 63-year-old, who can be backed by Wolfgang Schäuble, former finance minister along with godfather of the conservative party.

The third candidate, Jens Spahn, the health minister in Ms. Merkel’s government, failed to inspire party members with his appeal to allow the younger generation to take over. At just 38, he said he was told by many which he was “very young” along with would likely have a chance inside the future.

Mr. Merkel has said which, regardless of who wins the party leadership, she intends to serve as chancellor until 2021, when her current term expires. Both Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer along with Mr. Merz expressed support for which idea on the campaign trail.

however which scenario seems far more likely if Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer, whom the chancellor lifted coming from regional politics into a key party position last year, takes the helm of the party. She can be widely seen as Ms. Merkel’s chosen successor, along with the two women have shown they are able to work together during Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer’s brief tenure as the party’s general secretary.

Under the leadership of Mr. Merz, there are various options for how Ms. Merkel’s political career could end. The lobbyist along with businessman has held a long-simmering animosity toward the chancellor since she ousted him as floor leader in 2002. Ms. Merkel’s governing partners, the Social Democrats, already suffering for their decision to enter into a third coalition with the conservatives, widely view Mr. Merz as too market-oriented along with conservative. There are fears they could quit the government, triggering fresh elections.

The conservatives consider themselves Germany’s “chancellor party,” having governed for all however 20 of the past 69 years. They would likely like to keep which which way. Whichever candidate can be chosen will be required to help restore the party’s broad appeal to voters coming from all walks of society.

Germany’s political spectrum can be fragmenting, along with recent elections saw the conservatives lose support to both the populist Alternative for Germany on the far right along with the Greens on the left. The conservatives — including their Bavarian partners — have seen their popularity sag to just 27 percent in recent polls, far coming from the 38 percent they were drawing inside the spring of 2017.

Regardless of who wins, the fresh leader will bring a shift of cultural attitudes, given which all three are Roman Catholics coming from western Germany — the opposite of Ms. Merkel, who can be a Lutheran coming from eastern Germany, said Paul Nolte, a professor of history at the Free University in Berlin. “The pendulum can be swinging back,” he said.

The 1,001 delegates voting by secret ballot represent a cross-section of the party, coming from governors along with members of Parliament to municipal representatives. If no one wins more than 50 percent of the vote inside the first round, the two top contenders advance to a runoff.

Friday’s vote can be for the party leader, however the delegates will have an eye on who could win support coming from the broader public inside the next general election. So although German voters don’t have a direct say, public opinion matters, said Guntram Wolff, director of Bruegel, a research institute based in Brussels.

“The next chair of Christian Democrats can be not necessarily the next German chancellor,” Mr. Wolff said. “We don’t live in China. If he or she wants to be chancellor, they will need to be nominated as a chancellor candidate along with then would likely have to be elected.”