It takes a little longer this Monday for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to appear to the public. Three quarters of an hour later than announced, the CDU chairwoman in blue trousers steps up to her desk in the foyer of the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus and confirms what the news agencies reported hours earlier: She not only gives up her ambitions for a candidacy as chancellor, but also wants - albeit only at the end of the year - give up the party presidency.
She will now do what she has already announced as Secretary General, namely to serve the party, says Kramp-Karrenbauer in a sober statement that only lasts a few minutes. But the best service she can currently do to her party seems to be her own retreat. Three questions may still be asked. Then the still chairwoman disappears. It was only a year and two months ago that Kramp-Karrenbauer was elected to this office in Hamburg. It should unite and reconcile the disputed CDU. Now she has to admit that she failed in this task.
The fact that this happened is a great disappointment for the CDU as well. Because there was a time when Kramp-Karrenbauer was considered the hope of her party.
Her fame goes back above all to 2017. At that time, she managed to prevent the almost certain victory of Rot-Rot in Saarland with a dedicated election campaign. With 40.7 percent, the CDU received a result like in the old days. The so-called Schulzzug of the then SPD chancellor candidate was stopped. The fact that Kramp-Karrenbauer was still willing to give up the hard-defended prime ministerial position in early 2018 to become CDU general secretary earned her a lot of sympathy and high recognition in the CDU. The party thanked her with the best result ever achieved by a CDU general secretary.
CDU - Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer resigns The CDU party leader announced on Monday that she would withdraw from the party leadership. In parts of the European Union there would be no clear demarcation from the AfD. © Photo: Reuters TV
Down to earth, conservative, willing to take risks
Kramp-Karrenbauer seemed to distinguish many things that were lacking in the exhausted and deeply divided Merkel CDU after the years of the refugee crisis: down-to-earthness, for example, which she demonstrated not least with her carnival appearances as cleaning lady Gretel. Or the willingness to accommodate the party's right wing, be it with a tougher course in refugee policy or its openly rejected marriage rejection for all. Married, Catholic, mother of three children, West German - Kramp-Karrenbauer also fit biographically better with her party than the East German pastor's daughter.
And she had shown - not in itself a bad prerequisite for a successful party leader and potential chancellor - that she is willing to make decisions, even willing to take risks. That was already the case when she resigned the Jamaica coalition in Saarland in 2012 - without Merkel's approval by the way - and opted for a new election. It remained that way last year, in addition to the position of party leader, she also trusted the minister of defense to improve her starting position for the chancellor candidacy. And it showed up again when she gave her party an ultimatum at the 2019 party convention: If you don't support my course, let's end it here and today.
Even the reservation that she could not speak rousing could at least partially dispel Kramp-Karrenbauer: The fact that she was able to assert herself against her competitor Friedrich Merz in the struggle for party leadership was also due to the fact that she clearly gave the better speech at the 2018 party conference ,
Lack of political flair
And in the beginning things weren't going bad for her. As a general secretary, she had already started a listening tour to calm the battered party soul. This was well received in the CDU, because after all the reforms under Merkel - from new family policies to the exit from nuclear energy to the influx of many refugees - the need for speech was great. After her election as party leader, Kramp-Karrenbauer understandably first sought those who had been skeptical of her, the conservative wing. She carefully revised Merkel's refugee policy by generally refusing to rule out the rejection of refugees at the border.
The fact that the CSU was also trying to achieve reconciliation after the devastating state election results in 2018 was a good thing for Kramp-Karrenbauer. The grueling dispute between the sister parties, which had burdened both since the refugee year 2015, seemed to have ended. The Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder and the CDU boss celebrated the new unity at joint appearances.
Then, however, the mistakes and crises increased. It started with a misguided carnival joke, later the communication mishaps after the YouTuber Rezo's head-on attack on the CDU, the miserable European election result, which was then topped off by the CDU's poor performance in the state elections in the east last year - with the exception of Saxony ,