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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer now needs to prove she isn’t Merkel’s sequel

Deutschlandtag der Jungen Union (JU)
Source: DPA

While the other candidates held press conferences or penned op eds, until now, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, better known as AKK, kept her profile pretty low, prompting speculation she was plotting behind the scenes. She’s now off to the races, third in a long list of candidates hoping to replace Merkel.

Her numerous positions within the party should help her campaign – and her fans span the CDU’s youth wing through to focus groups helping families, women, and Catholics. Plus, she’s headed ministries from the interior to justice and sport before leading her state. She has also governed at the state level with the Green Party, a valuable experience given a new chancellor may have to lead a coalition with the pro-business FDP liberals and the environmentalist Greens.

AKK’s valued as a good listener who knows what people are saying. She’s not a Berlin insider. She’s a sneaker-wearing campaigner who’s traversed the country from wine fests in the Saar to harbor celebrations in the northern city of Kiel. Her fans say she’s intelligent with a keen sense of irony; to others, she’s conservative, lacks fiery rhetoric and is just a Merkel II.

She’s starting to carve out a profile for herself, talk differently from the other candidates by expressing concern about poverty, for example. Media-wise, though, she’s playing the long game rather than rushing to the fore.

Polling is mixed on whether this is working. Germans appear to favor Friedrich Merz, as does the CDU, most notably party nobleman Wolfgang Schäuble. Oddly, more CDU followers called her competent to lead than Merz (61% to 54%). She’s more than competent, for sure, but time will tell whether her rep as “Merkel light” will help or hinder her – and whether she can prove she’s got something new to show.

Germany and Europe are for now busy watching the midterms in the United States with a rare interest and a surfeit of angst. As Americans encourage each other to get out and vote, there’s a sense of doom over here. Even if the Democrats win, Europeans still fear Mr. Trump; while they hope for moderation from the White House, they’re pessimistic much will change.

Guido Kerkhoff, Thyssen’s new man at the top, meanwhile, is proving change is possible. He won the battle for the job four weeks ago and is busy hiring and firing. The former CFO is a modest figure; his closest brush with fame was sharing an elevator with a hip hop star and he met his wife as they performed due diligence on a takeover target. He relaxes with a beer after work and collects Volkswagen camper vans. If that’s how he de-stresses, he’ll need a bunch as he splits the steelmaker into two separate entities, ThyssenKrupp Industrial and ThyssenKrupp Materials, while also improving returns for long-suffering investors.

Speaking of ways to square the circle, German economists see hope for a Brexit solution in a workaround dating back to the divided Germany. Even though the GDR wasn’t a member of the EEC, a way was found to keep tractors, textiles and office machinery flowing across the border, courtesy of powerful political will. Fearful of a no-deal Brexit, the economists argue that compromise is the name of the game, calling it one of Brussels’ proven strengths.

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