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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a 56-year-old career politician committed to the status quo, has been chosen to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel as leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Kramp-Karrenbauer — often referred to as "Mini-Merkel" or "Merkel 2.0" because many view her as Merkel's clone — won by just 35 votes (517 to 482) in a second-round run-off against her main opponent, a conservative named Friedrich Merz, at a CDU conference in Hamburg on December 7. Kramp-Karrenbauer's extremely narrow victory (51.7% to 48.2%) revealed a party split down the middle.
Merz - CDU - Roots - Decades - Drift
Merz had pledged to pull the CDU back to its conservative roots, after two decades of leftward drift under Merkel's leadership resulted in a mass defection of angry CDU voters to the anti-mass migration party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), now the third-largest in the German parliament.
Kramp-Karrenbauer, by contrast, promised only cosmetic changes to the status quo, apparently out of fear that substantive changes would alienate the Social Democrats (SPD), who currently form part of Merkel's "grand coalition" government.
Failure - Break - Merkelism - CDU - Voters
The failure to make a clear break with "Merkelism" means that not only might the CDU be unable to win back disaffected voters, but that even more CDU voters could be tempted to defect to the AfD in the next general election, due by October 2021.
In her inaugural speech as CDU leader, Kramp-Karrenbauer — also known as AKK because her full name is a mouthful to pronounce — confirmed her intention to follow along the liberal path established by Merkel. Kramp-Karrenbauer said that she does not want the party to undergo a "conservative revolution" and instead wants the CDU to occupy the "very broad center." Merkel has long insisted that the CDU must be the "People's Party of the Center," and under Merkel's watch, the party has often used the slogan, "The Center" (Die Mitte).
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