Angela Merkel faced a crushing defeat after the CDU voted for her to step down as leader in September, after 13 years of leading Germany’s top conservative political party. Mrs Merkel’s authority was called into question over her handling of Germany’s “open migration” policy, when she allowed 1.1 million refugees passage into Germany at the height of the European migrant crisis. It resulted in the German leader announcing she would not stand for CDU leadership at the party convention this month and as Chancellor in 2021.
But will two opponents for the next CDU leadership term – the victor of which will be announced on December 10 – spell the end of Mrs Merkel’s chancellorship before the federal elections in 2021?
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is the continuity candidate, and Angela Merkel’s preferred successor, Friedrich Merz, wants to take the party back towards the right.
Analysts at the Economist Intelligence Unit believe Mr Merz will shift the left-leaning party to the right, echoing a rise in nationalist sentiment among voters and support for the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
It would potentially cause a gap between the party’s policies and Mrs Merkel’s own politics.
Analyst Emily Mansfield told Express.co.uk: “If Mr Merz wins we expect him to shift the CDU to the right, making the grand coalition more internally fractious.
“Ms Merkel would be reluctant to step down but could find that the gap between her views and the position of her party makes her chancellorship untenable.
Despite eight CDU events in November, many in the party are still undecided, which is contrary to reports that Mr Merz is already the likely winner.
Polls of CDU voters show Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer ahead, with four of the six surveys in November giving her the lead.
However, the one poll of CDU delegates that has been conducted, published December 1st, puts Mr Merz ahead.
Mrs Merkel would also face further trouble if Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer was crowned party leader, with her conservative social stance meaning Merkel would resign before the end of her leadership period.
Mrs Mansfield said: “If Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer wins we expect her to take the CDU towards a more conservative social stance and a more centre-left economic positioning.”
“Our call is that Ms Merkel would step down voluntarily as chancellor before the end of her term, in this scenario.”
Mrs Mansfield also highlighted that the victor of the election would likely become the next German Chancellor.
She said: “Whoever wins the CDU leadership contest is highly likely to become the next German chancellor, either before the next election (if Merkel steps down) or after it (given the current weakness of the country’s other big party, the SPD).
Mrs Merkel’s replacement will be chosen by 1,001 CDU delegates who cast their votes on Friday and Saturday.
The winner of the weekend’s elections takes pole position to succeed Mrs Merkel as Chancellor – which has serious implications beyond Berlin with the future of the European Union’s dominant country and biggest economy being placed in the new leaders’ hands.
Speaking of the effect of the new leader on the European Union post Brexit, Mrs Mansfield told Express.co.uk: “Neither Kramp-Karrenbauer nor Merz would substantially change Germany’s policy stance on Europe.
“However, the need to reshape the domestic political scene after Merkel’s departure means that German politics is likely to become more introspective in the coming years.”