With Friedrich Merz, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Jens Spahn, there are three prominent candidates who on Monday expressed their desire to succeed Angela Merkel at the head of the CDU/CSU. All three come from the Catholic milieu.
Merz and Spahn, both Westphalians, are considered more exponents of the conservative wing of the CDU and have emerged as Merkel critics, while Kramp-Karrenbauer is considered one of Merkel's closest confidants. Catholic News Agency (KNA) outlines her political career:
The former prime minister of the Saarland (56) became a beacon of hope for the CDU/CSU in the fall of the Merkel era. In spring 2017, her election victory in Germany's smallest state for the first time halted the supposed triumphant march of SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz. After Peter Tauber's withdrawal, she was elected the CDU's new secretary general in February 2018 with 98.8 percent of the vote. Since then, she has been touring Germany to prepare her party's new basic program and to gauge the mood of the party base.
Born on 9. August 1962 and grew up in Puttlingen, was already active in local politics during her studies of law and political science. In 2000, Saarland Minister President Peter Muller appointed her Germany's first female Minister of the Interior. Later she became Minister of Culture, then Minister of Labor and Social Affairs. In 2011, she became the first female head of government in Saarland, where she won two state elections and forged alliances with the red, green and yellow governments.
Also known as "AKK," Kramp-Karrenbauer is, like Merkel, a pragmatic, down-to-earth and unpretentious politician. She sided with the chancellor in accepting the many refugees in Germany. At the same time, she emphasized again and again that it was essential to observe the rules of society in order to live together. Who is not recognized as a protection seeker, must be consistently deported.
The CDU secretary general also has extensive experience in economic policy. She cites the reform of financial relations between the federal government and the states as one of her greatest political successes. In the Federalism Commission, she succeeded in securing the survival of her financially weak state through tough negotiations. In family policy, she called for more childcare options and financial support for children. She rejected same-sex marriages and campaigned for a clear distinction between the classic family and new ways of living together with children.
As Minister President, she opposed a decision by the Saarbrucken District Court to have crosses removed from courtrooms. The Christian symbol is "an exhortation to humility" and a reminder "that people are not the last word in wisdom," said Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is also a member of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK).
Merz (62), who was born in Brilon in Sauerland, is a business lawyer. In the CDU/CSU, the son of a judge is considered a representative of conservative and pro-business positions. For example, the brilliant speaker fought for an extension of the operating lives of German nuclear power plants and for limited employee co-determination in companies. He became known for his proposal of the "tax on a beer mat". In 2003, he drew up a tax concept that would massively simplify tax law for citizens with only three tax brackets.
Catholic and close to home – that's another side of the convinced European Merz: a member of a Catholic student fraternity, the local shooting club and the Kolping family. He grew up in the deeply black town of Brilon, where his grandfather was mayor for 20 years and became a role model for political commitment.
In 1985, Merz, who is married to a lawyer, first became a judge and shortly thereafter switched to the legal profession. He began his political career in 1989 when he was elected to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. In 1994 he entered the Bundestag for the Hochsauerland constituency. In 2000, he became chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, succeeding Wolfgang Schauble, who had stumbled over the donations affair.
Election as party leader would be a late satisfaction for the 62-year-old. After party leader Merkel claimed the parliamentary group chairmanship after the 2002 Bundestag election, he resigned from his post as deputy parliamentary group chairman in 2004. In 2009, he withdrew completely from active politics. The Sauerland native has since worked in various law firms.
In 2016, Merz became chairman of the supervisory board of the German branch of the world's largest asset manager BlackRock. Since December 2017, he has been chairman of the supervisory board of Cologne/Bonn Airport. Merz is also chairman of the Atlantic Bridge network, which aims to forge close economic policy ties between the U.S. and Germany.
It was the self-confessed value conservative Merz who brought the term "German Leitkultur" into the conversation in 2000. In this context, the father of three criticized particularly traditional customs among Muslims and demanded that they "accept our customs, traditions and habits". He spoke out strongly against dual citizenship and for the deportation of foreign criminals. In the dispute over Paragraph 218, he voted in 1995 against the compromise in force today and in favor of stricter regulations on abortion.
Like Merz, the 38-year-old from Munsterland is considered a Merkel critic who has repeatedly drawn attention to himself with conservative positions on Leitkultur and immigration. In recent months, however, the CDU politician, who is brimming with self-confidence, has concentrated strongly on his office as federal health minister and has worked on major ies such as the shortage of skilled nursing staff, organ donation and the future of hospitals.
The Westphalian stands for a conservative orientation of the party and is an avowed Catholic, although as a married homosexual he is contrary to church positions. In an interview with "Christ und Welt" in May, he declared that being Catholic was something that came naturally to him. "Where I come from, no one asks if you like being Catholic. One is."
Spahn was born in Ahaus in 1980. His roots are in the Munsterland region, where he was an altar boy, graduated from high school, chaired a district association of the Junge Union and was a member of a city council for ten years. "For me, being a Christian Democrat is above all a question of attitude. Part of that is that we should strive for the best without ever being able to be perfect," he once said in an interview with the KNA.
As a 22-year-old, the trained banker entered the Bundestag in 2002. Time and again, he got in trouble: When the then grand coalition decided to increase pensions in 2008, the young politician considered it an "election gift to pensioners" and triggered a wave of indignation. In March 2018, he drew much criticism when he declared that even without food banks, no one in Germany would have to go hungry. With Hartz IV, "everyone has what they need to live". He also showed himself to be a hardliner when it came to integration policy.
Spahn was his parliamentary group's health policy expert from 2005 to 2015 before becoming state secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance under Wolfgang Schauble. He did not shy away from confrontations, for example when he successfully ran for the party presidency against Minister Hermann Grohe. He kept a clear distance from Merkel before the chancellor included him in the cabinet discipline as a minister after the last Bundestag election.