German Chancellor Angela Merkel has decided to appoint a party loyalist who has been floated as a potential successor to the post of general secretary of her Christian Democratic Union.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the CDU premier of the western state of Saarland, will succeed Peter Tauber, according to a party official familiar with the decision, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Tauber confirmed on Monday he is stepping down.
Kramp-Karrenbauer, 55, a centrist who supported Merkel’s initial open-border policy during the 2015-2016 refugee crisis, has been on the short list of party grandees considered to eventually replace Merkel. Her promotion is a slap to CDU critics of the chancellor, though it may make it more likely one of their number will get a cabinet post.
The general secretary manages the party and oversees election campaigns. Merkel herself took the job in 1998 after the CDU was ousted from government after 16 years in power under Helmut Kohl. Less than two years later she took over the party leadership.
Merkel, who is aiming to be sworn in to her fourth term as German leader next month after more than 12 years in office, has come under fresh internal pressure to arrange a succession. After the CDU suffered its worst electoral result since 1949 in September, Merkel surrendered two powerful ministries to the Social Democrats as part of a coalition agreement earlier this month. The accord is going to a vote by the full SPD membership.
A member of the CDU’s executive committee, Kramp-Karrenbauer has governed Saarland — a state of about a million people on the border with France — since 2011. She led the party to its fifth straight state regional victory in March 2017, dealing a blow to the SPD’s surge a year ago after Martin Schulz emerged as the surprise chancellery candidate.