Germany's CDU, the party once led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, is now led by longtime ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The new party chief insists she is not trying to push Merkel out as chancellor before 2021.
Germany's government and chancellor are "elected for a full term" and should take that responsibility seriously, CDU party chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told the conservative Die Welt newspaper.
Kramp-Karrenbauer, formerly the premier of the small German state of Saarland, took over as CDU leader after Merkel announced she was stepping down from the job last year. Merkel is set to serve as chancellor of Germany until the end of her term in 2021, and she has signaled she would like to see Kramp-Karrenbauer take over that job.
Addressing speculation that Merkel might leave earlier than planned, Kramp-Karrenbauer said she was not working to push the chancellor out.
"When it comes to me, I can rule out that I am scheming for a change," the CDU head told Die Welt.
'Always room for speculation'
The 56-year-old Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (also known as AKK) has struggled to gain popularity on the national level. The CDU is heading into the European parliament elections with some 30% support in Germany, which is about three percentage points less than what the party had claimed at the 2017 general election under Merkel.
In remarks published on Sunday, Kramp-Karrenbauer said part of the reason for the lagging performance is the CDU's grand coalition with the center-left SPD.
"We have a coalition that was not easy to make and that is not always easy to coordinate," she said. "The key issue is this: If the framework changes, are we going to find the necessary, new answers in this coalition?"
However, she acknowledged that her party was also affected by the fact that one person was now leading the party and another was leading the government. Previously, Merkel performed both of these functions.
"Right now, while the positions of the chancellor and party leader are separate, there is always room for speculation, if the cooperation works, and how long would this phase take," Kramp-Karrenbauer said.
'Companions' instead of friends
Kramp-Karrenbauer also said that during the ongoing campaign "there are days when I talk with [Merkel] more often than my husband."
While Merkel had endorsed Kramp-Karrenbauer on the national stage, the CDU head said she did not see the chancellor as her "friend."
"But we are something like companions," Kramp-Karrenbauer said. "Our relationship is very good — same as before."
According to the plans she shared with Die Welt, Kramp-Karrenbauer would usher in a new party platform for the CDU in late 2020, and the party would subsequently name a chancellor candidate.
dj/aw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)