The CDU’s abysmal showing in last week’s EU Parliamentary election marked the party’s worst result ever in a national election. And apparently, the the loss of the CDU/CSU’s position as the largest party in the bloc’s largest legislative body was the last straw for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is beginning to regret her decision to step aside as party leader last year to clear the way for her chosen successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, or AKK.
According to Bloomberg, Merkel is so frustrated with AKK following a series of missteps by the new CDU party leader and anointed candidate for the chancellorship in 2021 that she has decided that AKK is not up to the job of being Chancellor, and has decided to withdraw her political support, throwing her well-laid succession plans into disarray.
Of course, Merkel’s ability to change the party’s direction is limited now that she has handed over control of the machinery. But the decision to withdraw support for her erstwhile protege is the latest sign that she is determined to stay on as Chancellor until her term ends, despite growing pressure from AKK and others within the party to step aside before the vote. And who knows? If the acrimony between the two female conservative leaders continues to worsen, Merkel may yet change her mind and decide to seek an unprecedented fifth term in office.
Though with her party’s popularity sagging, the chances that it will retain the chancellorship after the next election are looking less likely by the day. Not only was the CDU pummeled during the last two national elections, but AKK’s approval rating recently slipped three points to 36%, according to broadcaster ARD. That’s the lowest since she became CDU party leader, and almost 20 points behind Merkel. AKK’s standing has been hurt by a series of gaffes, including an off-color joke about transsexuals that alienated many moderates. Adding insult to injury, as the CDU’s popularity wanes, support for the progressive Greens has surged, with the party doubling its vote share to 20% last week compared with the 2014 EU Parliamentary elections.
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