01:42 GMT18 January 2021
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    Although Angela Merkel, who took over Germany’s top post in 2005, gave up the leadership in her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in 2018, she vowed to remain chancellor until the end of her term in 2021. Now, after her successor as the CDU chair announced she is stepping down, speculation that her refusal to leave has facilitated a party crisis.

    An increasing number of people within the CDU in Berlin believe that Angela Merkel should open the way for a new party leader and vacate the post of chancellor, the Financial Times reports.

    According to the outlet, citing experts and unnamed party sources, then the future chair will not share the fate of outgoing CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who announced her resignation slightly more than a year after taking over the post, with what one analyst, historian from Mainz University Andreas Rödder, described as “a kiss of death” for Merkel.

    As she made the bombshell announcement, AKK pointed out that splitting the roles of chancellor and party leader had “weakened” the CDU, proving Merkel’s scheme had “failed spectacularly”, as Rödder told German radio. Merkel’s grip on power is said to have impacted her CDU successor’s claim to authority within the party.

    Cohabitation With Frau Chancellor Impossible

    While the CDU is up to choosing a new chair, former CDU adviser Michael Spreng noted that they are attempting the impossible, insisting that they cannot have Merkel as chancellor and another politician as a strong leader.

    “They want a strong new leader, a convincing candidate for chancellor, and they also want Ms Merkel to remain in office until the end of her term. But you can’t have all three”, he said, adding “This cohabitation will undermine their authority from the start”.

    According to the media, AKK’s reproach was met with sympathy and understanding and her successor would not want to meet the same fate.

    “Whoever succeeds her will not want to repeat the experiment of splitting the roles of party leader and chancellor. They will tell Merkel she can’t go on”, an unnamed senior official in Berlin told the outlet.

    Legal Challenges For Resignation

    This is not a unanimous position, however, as one senior CDU lawmaker told the outlet that it depends on how Merkel and the future party leader work together.

    “If they have a good relationship then there’s no reason why she can’t hang on as chancellor until the end of her term”, the MP concluded.

    Relations between Merkel and her potential contenders vary: while one of them, premier of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet, is considered her loyalist, Health Minister Jens Spahn and chairman of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee Norbert Röttgen could oppose the chancellor.

    So does long-time critic of her policies, namely towards migration, 64-year-old lawyer Friedrich Merz. The latter was ousted by Merkel from the leadership in the party’s parliamentary group years ago.

    Even if the CDU reaches a consensus on the matter, forcing Merkel to retire might prove to be hard as “the German Constitution doesn’t provide an easy way to get rid of a chancellor”, the official said.

    A no-confidence vote in the Bundestag could fail as there is no parliamentary majority to vote for it with the Social Democrats refusing to back other candidates and pledging to stick to the coalition with Merkel as chancellor.

    The upcoming presidency of the EU this year might also hamper her stepping down as there are fears a leadership transition could disrupt it.


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