The battle for Merkel’s throne

By Gemma Casadevall

Berlin, Apr 25 (efe-epa).- Germany’s Christian Democratic Union was set to elect a new party leader on Saturday but the vote was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic leaving an air of mystery around who Chancellor Angela Merkel’s heir will be.

“There will be no election now or in the coming months. Big events have been suspended. The next appointment will be the regular December congress. But right now forecasts are not valid,” Friedrich Merz, of the CDU, told foreign media this week.

Merz is one of the contenders running for the leadership contest, along with Norbert Röttgen and Armin Laschet, North Rhine-Westphalia state premier, all of whom would have been fighting for the vote of 1,001 CDU delegates today.

Merz and Röttgen have been given minimal media attention. Laschet, however, has been criticized for trying to ease restrictions despite his region being one of the most affected by Covid-19 in the country.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel has enjoyed a renewed praise for her leadership capacity.

After 15 years in power, she is the country’s highest-rated politician, and her conservative bloc has soared in the polls to the highest levels since launching her fourth term in 2017.

Merkel seemed to have left her political legacy ready when in 2018 CDU secretary-general, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, sometimes referred to as AKK, was elected party leader.

AKK resigned a year later after she was unable to discipline the CDU in the eastern state of Thuringia who had backed an independent far-right leader, leading to divisions within the party.

But according to Columbian journalist Patricia Salazar, who penned a Merkel biography with Christina Mendoza “the last word has not been written.”

Salazar adds that even “when she looked like a lethargic leader”, weakened physically, as a result of the tremors she suffered in public events in 2019, her life in politics was far from over.

“In this crisis scenario, she has shown again that this is where she best exercises her leadership powers,” says Salazar.

Merkel is a benchmark of good sense in times of uncertainty.

Videos of the Chancellor talking about Covid-19 and flattening the curve of infection have gone viral, Salazar recalls.

Merkel’s in Quantum Chemistry has awarded her a position of authority on the matter and increased her influence.

But despite the pandemic putting the power struggle on hold, the leadership issues within the CDU are age-old and prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Franco Delle Donne, an Argentine political scientist established in Bavaria and co-author, with Andreu Jerez, of The German Transition.

AKK resigned because she could not achieve the party’s “most important objective” of doing away with existing divisions, says Delle Donne.

“There is, on the one hand, a conservative sector, which somehow tries to recover votes that went to the far right. And, on the other, a more moderate one in line with Merkel.”

“It may be that the current circumstances will distort the scenario,” the biographer, who has lived in Germany for 20 years, adds.

In the midst of global alarm, “governments, not only in Germany but throughout the world, have taken on an enormous centralization (of power). Anything that happens on the periphery is irrelevant,” says Delle Donne.

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