This is because, while continuing her role as Chancellor, Angela Merkel has quit as leader of her CDU party as she prepares to depart politics for good in 2021. But, many have called for her to leave her post as Germany’s head of state immediately as rivals deride her “lack of leadership” and describe her presence as a “blockage in the party”. In an attempt to secure her legacy, the German Chancellor hoped that key ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer would continue in her role as leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union Party.
But, she instead stepped down earlier last month opening up the party’s leadership bid to those taking a more reformist approach.
Continuing as Chancellor while not leading her party is a first, as highlighted by Felix Schonerr of the Werte Union (Values Union) – a group within the CDU which has been critical of its leader.
The group spokesperson told Express.co.uk that Merkel’s move has not been seen before, and is possibly motivated by her fear of being ousted later this year.
He said: “Yeah I think this is unique, I don’t think this has ever been the case before. Maybe it was motivated by a fear that her rival Friedrich Merz would beat her in a direct vote so maybe she chose a successor so she could avoid a competition with Merz.”
In 2018, the Werte Union’s leader, Alexander Mitsch said Merz “has the potential to give the party a clear profile again”.
Merz is a longstanding rival of Merkel’s, but left politics in 2009.
He has returned to challenge for the leadership of the CDU, and many in the Werte Union back his push for the chancellery.
The group’s spokesperson said: “We don’t have an official endorsement, but many members of the Werte Union favour Merz. He is very popular among the party’s base.
“The position that Merz proposes, it is true that he may shift the party to the right, he has some very different opinions to Merkel in terms of immigration and energy.
“The ironic thing about this is that what Merz represents is the CDU of the early 2000’s, he represents the party from 20 years ago before Merkel.”
Merz has previously derided Merkel’s “lack of leadership”, and has called for his party to take a different approach.
Earlier this month, speaking at a party event in Hamburg, he argued for “plain speaking” and tax cuts to restore his party’s strength.
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He said: “We must have the courage to contradict, to be controversial. If we want to get more than one-third of the vote we have to be better than we are right now.”
On whether the businessman and former politician would change a lot of Merkel’s previous work, the Werte Union’s spokesperson said that he will, but it could also put a strain on the already fragile coalition in Berlin.
Mr Schonherr told Express.co.uk: “I really think so [he will change a lot]. It may be very hard at first because of the coalition with the left-wing parties, so this means the coalition probably won’t work anymore.
“Things will drastically change within the party because if Merz becomes leader, the top of the party will have different personnel.”
As the German Chancellor’s authority is increasingly undermined, Merz’ challenge could see Merkel’s legacy undone after 2021.
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