08:05 GMT26 February 2020
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    Amid the political crisis in Thuringia, the CDU’s current leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, viewed as Angela Merkel’s successor, has announced that she is stepping down. Whoever assumes the post after her can hardly hope to take over the position of chancellor before 2021, when Angela Merkel leaves, the CDU’s coalition partner – the SPD – warns.

    The leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) has tied the existence of their grand coalition with the Christian Democratic Union, which is currently governing, to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    “We went into this coalition with her. And with her, we will also leave this coalition again - for the next election date, as planned. I don't know of any other election date", the SPD’s General Secretary Lars Klingbeil told the Editorial Network Germany.

    He was echoed by the head of the SPD parliamentary group, Carsten Schneider, who also noted that the Social Democrats would not choose another CDU chancellor.

    "She is one and will be one, and if the CDU decides to give the country instability (...) there will be elections", Schneider warned, adding that they want to continue this legislative period until 2021 as planned.

    He expressed hope that the CDU/CSU union, which is in turmoil following a political crisis in Thuringia and the upcoming resignation of its current leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, will resolve its problems. Both politicians emphasised that the SPD stands for the coalition's joint work, as in the coming months, decisions will need to be reached on basic pensions, energy policy, and government investments.

    As Klingbeil pointed out, for the SPD, which has also seen a change of leadership, with Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken taking over the party's helm, the announced change within the CDU poses no problem "for reliable cooperation in the grand coalition".

    CDU’s Attitude to AfD Questioned

    However, Klingbeil warned that the Christian Democrats’ stance on the right-wing party Alternative for Germany against the backdrop of the governmental crisis in Thuringia is decisive. In the region, the CDU, together with the AfD and FDP, backed Free Democrat Thomas Kemmerich for the post of minister-president, something that sparked internal debate within the party and prompted criticism from Angela Merkel. The position of the conservative faction within the CDU, the Values Union, also raises eyebrows in the SPD.

    "Whether the CDU is reliable can be seen in its stance to the right. The CDU has to distinguish itself from its internal AfD fan club, the Union of Values", Klingbeil noted.

    SPD's Schneider emphasised that it was good that the CDU had made it clear at the federal level that there should not be any cooperation with the AfD, but this has to be followed up with action. According to him, many CDU politicians, not only at the local level in East Germany, would not be afraid to work with the AfD and cooperate.

    Will Germany’s Presidency in EU Be Impacted?

    Klingbeil's fellow Social Democrat, MEP Katarina Barley, also warns about the consequences that the CDU party crisis could have on the European arena ahead of the country’s presidency in the EU when the joint budget for the next few years and the agreement on the future relationship with Great Britain is expected to be adopted.

    "The CDU crisis must not result in Germany becoming a 'lame duck' in Europe", she said, adding that both of the documents “will shape the EU sustainably and require clear announcements from Berlin”.


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    Angela Merkel, Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Free Democratic Party (FDP), Social Democrats (SPD), Germany
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