Two of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s closest political allies and most senior ministers will quit the German parliament to make way for a new generation that can rejuvenate her conservative party after its election defeat, they said.
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, who joined the other two in saying the party had to win back the young.
Hans said the party needed to drop totemic commitments like the constitutionally-enshrined public debt ceiling, often blamed for Germany’s slow pace of infrastructure investment.
“We need to develop the debt brake into a generational budget pact, a generationally fair budget,” he said.
Many activists blame an out-of-touch leadership for insisting on running the 60-year-old Laschet over candidates they believe would have done better, such as Bavarian premier Markus Soeder, and for losing the youth vote to the liberal FDP and Greens.
This week, the two smaller parties said they would open 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 pro-business FDP, might prefer a mathematically possible three-way coalition with the conservatives, the growing chaos in the CDU makes that less and less likely.
“The CDU must 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 remain in their posts until a new government is formed or they are otherwise replaced.
“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.