BERLIN: Two of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s closest political allies and most senior ministers will quit the German parliament to allow a new generation to rebuild her conservative party following its election defeat, a party leader said on Saturday (Oct 9).
The decision of Peter Altmaier, the economy minister, and Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, comes amid growing infighting within the conservative camp after Armin Laschet, another close Merkel ally, led it to defeat last month.
Saturday’s announcement was made by Tobias Hans, head of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) party in Saarland – the home region of both Altmaier and Kramp-Karrenbauer.
This week, the Greens and the pro-business FDP party said they would hold talks with the first-placed Social Democrats on forming a government, making it likely that the conservatives will soon be out of power for the first time since Merkel became chancellor 16 years ago.
While some, especially in the liberal FDP, might prefer a mathematically possible three-way coalition with the conservatives, the growing chaos in the CDU makes that appear increasingly less likely.
“The CDU has to get itself in shape for the future,” Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was briefly and unsuccessfully Merkel’s hand-picked successor as party leader, tweeted. “Peter Altmaier and I want to contribute to this by standing down from the Bundestag.”
The two will remain in their posts until a new government is formed or they are otherwise replaced.
Many activists blame an out-of-touch party leadership for insisting on running the 60-year-old Laschet over candidates they believe would have done better, such as Bavarian premier Markus Soeder, as well as for a collapse in the youth vote, which deserted the party for the liberals and Greens.
“We must do all we can to win that younger generation back,” said Altmaier, who for many years was head of Merkel’s office.
Laschet this week proposed a party congress to discuss how the party should be reformed following its defeat.