Angela Merkel’s party is reportedly looking for a new face with no baggage from her years in power to take her place as Armin Laschet, the current leader, prepares to step down.
The Christian Democrat party (CDU) announced on Monday that it will elect a new leader and replace its entire national executive board by the end of the year, after suffering its worst ever election result last month.
Mrs Merkel did not stand for re-election and is to step down as chancellor as soon as a new government is formed.
In a clear signal of a changing of the guard, two heavyweights of the Merkel era, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Peter Altmaier, announced they were retiring from politics altogether to allow a new generation to take control.
The CDU appears to have resigned itself to going into opposition after its traditional rival, the centre-Left Social Democrat patyy (SPD), opened coalition talks last week.
Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer
Credit: JOHN THYS
Mr Laschet has already announced he will step down and the party is set to choose its fourth leader in as many years.
“We’re looking for some one fresh out of the box, some one who’s not on anyone’s radar, who can be sold to the outside world,” Bild newspaper quoted a senior CDU source as saying on Monday.
Mr Laschet is to stay on until a new leader is elected and the process promises to be long and drawn out.
The party has yet to agree a mechanism for choosing a new leader after members expressed discontent with the current system, where delegates at the party conference have the final say.
But the CDU looks set to jettison to the big beasts of the Merkel era after announcing it will replace its entire natioinal executive board.
Among those who have already decided to step down are Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, the current defence minister, who was Mrs Merkel’s first choice as successor but resigned as party leader last year after losing her backing.
Credit: ERIC PIERMONT
Mr Altmaier, another big beast who is stepping down, is an arch-Merkel loyalist and was for many years her go-to fixer. He was rewarded with the job of economy minister but is widely considered to have proved out of his depth in the role.
But all eyes are fixed on the fate of Wolfgang Schäuble, the most powerful figure in the CDU after Mrs Merkel, who has been widely blamed for forcing through Mr Laschet as chancellor candidate despite opposition from the party base.
At 79, Mr Schäuble could retire, but he won re-election as an MP last month and appears set on staying on.
The next step for the CDU will be a conference of local CDU party chairmen, who will decide how to go forward at the end of this month.
“The window for this is the end of the year,” Paul Ziemiak, the party chairman, said. There are unconfirmed reports a venue in Dresden has been proivisionally booked for a party conference on December 6.
“Only if the CDU gives the next generation a chance will we have a future as a people’s party,” younger party MPs said in a joint letter to Welt am Sonntag newspaper this week.