Catholic Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer primed to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Will Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, more popularly known in Germany as AKK, become the next Chancellor? With Angela Merkel beginning her fourth and potentially final term this year, speculations point to the Catholic state leader as the most likely candidate to succeed the seasoned leader.

(Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke)German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Saarland State Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer ahead CDU leadership meeting in Berlin, Germany, February 19, 2018.

The German Chancellor recently named AKK as the general secretary of the ruling party, Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Observers noted that Merkel took this same path before she began leading Germany in 2005, hence her vote of confidence for AKK could be seen as an anointing.

Before becoming the party's new head, AKK was the premier of Saarland, Germany's second smallest state in terms of population, since 2011. Though only less than a million in population, Saarland is largely a Catholic region, which many accounted for AKK's victory in the last regional elections.

The press also dubbed AKK as the "mini-Markel" because she holds the same views when it came to economic reforms like labor policies and minimum wage. Described as "unpretentious" and "down to earth" by her constituents, the new CDU general secretary, however, is more centered on her faith than politics compared to Merkel, a Lutheran. AKK also looks to her beliefs to guide decisions when it came to social issues.

As a traditional Catholic, AKK opposed gay marriage when Germany made it legal in 2015. She actually drew criticisms when she publicly voiced that the practice might lead to marriages between family members and "more than two people."

AKK also called for a stricter screening process for Syrian refugees and a quicker deportation of those with rejected asylum applications. She has, however, a progressive stance when it came to gender roles, especially when her husband took charge of the household when she pursued a career in politics and they had young children to raise.

Political analysts in Germany say that the Catholic leader could be a unifying influence since she has both modern and conservative views on issues that affect the country. But Merkel knows her alleged anointed one needs to make a mark in the national and international scale, hence putting her in charge of the CDU is a big and well-calculated step for the ruling party, observers said.