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Chancellor Angela Merkel's Chosen Successor Steps Away, Adding To German Uncertainty


German Chancellor Angela Merkel's anointed successor is planning to step down as party leader and take herself out of the running to replace Merkel. As NPR's Rob Schmitz reports, this development only adds to the political uncertainty in Europe's biggest democracy.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Showing no emotion, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced she was standing down at the Berlin headquarters of her and Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union Party, or CDU.


ANNEGRET KRAMP-KARRENBAUER: (Through interpreter) We have to be strong, stronger than we are today. It is a task for all of us to ensure a strong CDU.

SCHMITZ: But she said the open question of her becoming chancellor weakened her party.

JOSEF JANNING: She suffers from the problem that, as party chair and sort of candidate for the chancellery in waiting, you are in a somewhat delicate position.

SCHMITZ: Josef Janning, former senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, says when Chancellor Angela Merkel handpicked Kramp-Karrenbauer as her successor, the problems for Kramp-Karrenbauer began.

JANNING: Everyone's watching you. Lots of people would like to see you fail, but you don't have the authority of office to keep them in check.

SCHMITZ: As party leader, Kramp-Karrenbauer struggled to unite her party, as in last week's scandal that saw a local chapter of her party in the state of Thuringia defy her orders and vote for the same candidate as the far-right AfD party. Tyson Barker of Aspen Institute Germany says Kramp-Karrenbauer's resignation shows how fractious politics in Germany have become.

TYSON BARKER: Germany, since the end of the Second World War, has had two major political pillars of stability - the Social Democrats on the center left and the Christian Democrats on the center right. And both are going through a major identity crisis right now.

SCHMITZ: And as a result, both are losing popularity. Barker says one party that may fill the political vacuum left by today's news is the Green Party, whose platform of climate change, social justice and tech investment has become more and more appealing to young voters across the country.

Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.