Who are Merkel’s possible successors as CDU party chief?

Ranging from loyal allies to fierce critics, there's no shortage of possible contenders to succeed Germany's Angela Merkel as head of the centre-right CDU party in December and secure a shot at succeeding her as chancellor.

Who are Merkel's possible successors as CDU party chief?
From top left: Armin Laschet, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Jens Spahn, Friedrich Merz, Daniel Günther, and Wolfgang Schäuble. Photo: DPA

Here's a look at the top expected candidates.

Compromise: Armin Laschet

Elected state premier of Germany's most populous region North Rhine-Westphalia just last year, 57-year-old Armin Laschet could emerge as the compromise candidate to heal divisions that have torn at the CDU under Merkel.

A political veteran who has served in the Bundestag national parliament and the European Parliament and as family minister in Merkel's first government, Laschet has often backed her moderate course.

He can count on the support of Merkel critic Christian Lindner, who heads the liberal Free Democrats and recently said Laschet “has what it takes to be chancellor”. 

Crown princess: 'AKK'

Known as the “mini-Merkel”, 56-year-old Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer — 
former state premier of tiny Saarland — is a loyal follower of the chancellor's centrist line that has shaped CDU and German politics over the past two decades.

At Merkel's initiative, she became party general secretary in February, the 
number two spot offering a leg-up towards taking the helm.

Often referred to by her initials “AKK”, her Catholic views overlap more with the conservative wing of the CDU than Merkel on social questions like abortion or gay marriage.

'Anti-Merkel': Jens Spahn

Just 38 years old, right-winger Jens Spahn is seen by many as the “anti-Merkel”.

The chancellor named him health minister in her fourth government to 
appease the CDU's right wing, but he hasn't held back from criticizing what he sees as her overly “social-democratic” party line.

He has sharpened his profile through meetings with conservative darlings 
like Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and US ambassador to Berlin Richard Grenell, a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump.

A picture of Grenell and Spahn, who are both openly gay, posing with their 
respective partners after a casual dinner in Berlin made headlines in Germany.

Avenger: Friedrich Merz

Friedrich Merz, 62, has never forgiven the chancellor for driving him out as head of the party's group of MPs in the Bundestag in 2002.

Like Spahn, financial policy expert and social conservative Merz has complained that Merkel led the CDU too far to the left.

He quit the Bundestag following his defeat at her hands, returning to work as a lawyer and heading the supervisory board of mammoth asset manager Blackrock's German arm.

Traditionalist: Daniel Günther

Since June 28th, CDU politician Daniel Günther has served as Minister President of the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein. He was elected president of Germany’s Bundesrat, or Federal Council, on October 19th.

A practicing Catholic, he has pushed to uphold traditional German values and traditions. In March 2016, he said that pork should remain an offering at German workplaces and schools – a reaction to the large Muslim influx during the refugee crisis of 2015.

Old-timer: Wolfgang Schäuble

Since 2017, CDU politician Schäuble has served as the president of the Bundestag. He is one of the longest serving politicians in German history, having held positions as Federal Minister of the Interior, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Federal Minister of the Interior.

In his last role as Federal Minister of Finance, he served on the German committee to discuss how to proceed with Brexit.

He supports a wide range of issues, from better transatlantic relations to more stronger policies to combat domestic terrorism.



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Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.