GERMAN POLITICS is in disarray after the sudden announcement that Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of the ruling centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), intends to resign. On February 10th Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said she would quit her role as party chairwoman and not seek the CDU’s nomination to be chancellor-candidate at the next general election, due in autumn 2021. In 2018 Angela Merkel had vacated the CDU leadership for Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, hoping to give her an orderly transition to the chancellery. But a series of gaffes throughout 2019 had left Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer looking vulnerable. Now a fiasco in the small east German state of Thuringia has tipped her over the edge.
Last October an election in the state had delivered a majority of seats to parties of the hard left and right, making it difficult to form a coalition. Amid complicated parliamentary manoeuvring, on February 5th Thomas Kemmerich, leader of a small liberal party, was elected state premier with votes from the CDU and the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD). No state leader had ever relied on AfD support to take office, and there was an immediate backlash in Berlin. Mrs Merkel declared the result “unforgivable” and demanded Thuringia hold new elections. The Social Democrats (SPD), the CDU’s partner in national government, hinted it might walk out of the coalition. Thousands demonstrated, in Berlin and elsewhere, chanting anti-fascist slogans.
Mr Kemmerich resigned within days, but inside the CDU the damage was done. Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer advertised her own impotence by announcing that she had urged her colleagues in Thuringia not to vote for Mr Kemmerich, to no effect. Mrs Merkel’s interventions only made her protégée look weaker; as party business, Thuringia should have been Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer’s problem to solve. Even after Mr Kemmerich’s resignation the gridlock in Thuringia presented an almost-impossible challenge, for the alternative premier was Bodo Ramelow of Die Linke, a far-left party with which the CDU also rules out co-operating. There, and in other eastern states, the CDU’s firewall against both far left and far right appeared to be under challenge from local party bigwigs. Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer saw that as a terminal affront to her leadership.
But she was also unhappy about Mrs Merkel’s decision in 2018 to split the roles of CDU leadership and chancellor-candidate, which she suggested had weakened the party. The search for a successor may help resolve that. The next CDU leader, who should be chosen by the summer (Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer will remain in charge until then), will be well placed to lead the party into the 2021 election. Potential candidates include Armin Laschet, who runs North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s largest state; Friedrich Merz, a pro-business former CDU parliamentary leader; and Jens Spahn, the young health minister. (Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer defeated the latter two for the leadership in 2018.) Markus Söder, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, will be watching closely; at general elections the two parties propose a joint candidate to be chancellor, and Mr Söder may have an interest. Despite the CDU’s woes, this candidate will have the best chance of succeeding Mrs Merkel, probably in an alliance with the newly popular Greens. The race to succeed Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer will thus become a proxy battle over Germany’s future.
What conclusions should be drawn from this debacle? First, Mrs Merkel’s careful succession plans lie in ruins, diminishing the chancellor’s authority yet further. Second, German politics are likely to remain inward-looking for the best part of two years; bad news for the French and others who had hoped that Germany’s presidency of the EU Council, in the second half of 2020, might help unlock some deadlocked European problems. Third, fragmenting politics and strong extremes are upending Germany’s traditional parties. Despite its crowing over the CDU’s woes this week, the SPD, Germany’s other Volkspartei (big-tent party), is in even worse shape. Amid such chaos even the continued survival of the national coalition is not assured. The aftershocks from the Thuringian earthquake have proved stronger than anyone could have imagined.
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Tory leadership hopefuls say it’s time for unity. Here’s what some say that means
OTTAWA — When three Conservative leadership hopefuls met this past week for a debate, the same word kept getting repeated.
Unity. Or more precisely, the need for it.
In a contest largely seen as a battle for the party’s soul, which has put decades-old fissures on display between groups that make up its very coalition, what might it take to achieve unity after results are revealed Sept. 10?
As that question lingers, many in the party and beyond are preparing for a scenario in which Pierre Poilievre takes victory.
Much of that thinking is based on the longtime MP’s popularity with the existing grassroots, coupled with his ability to draw big crowds and sell what his campaign claims to have been more than 300,000 memberships.
But after winning comes the challenge of leading.
“Somebody has to give some thought to the morning after,” said Garry Keller, former chief of staff to Rona Ambrose, who served as the party’s interim leader after it lost government in 2015.
Of the 118 other members in caucus, a whopping 62 endorsed Poilievre. That’s compared to the party’s 2020 leadership race when the caucus was more evenly split between Peter MacKay and the eventual winner, Erin O’Toole.
O’Toole’s inability to manage caucus after losing the 2021 election to the Liberals ultimately led to his downfall. He was forced out by a vote from his MPs under provisions in the Reform Act, measures which will remain in place for the next leader.
Poilievre has said his campaign message of “freedom” serves as a great unifier among Conservatives. However, Keller said if some in caucus are taking that to mean they will be able to say whatever they want on social media, they shouldn’t.
“I think people will be solely disabused of that notion.”
Poilievre and his supporters have throughout the race been accused of sowing disunity in the party by instigating personal attacks against rivals, namely ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest.
Most recently, MPs endorsing Poilievre — along with Scott Aitchison, a rural Ontario representative and fellow leadership competitor — have called into question whether Charest, who has spent the past 20 years out of federal politics, plans to stick around the party after the race is over.
Longtime British Columbia MP Ed Fast, a co-chair on Charest’s campaign, tweeted “the purity tests must stop” and cautioned party members that when Conservatives are divided, Liberals win.
Fast himself resigned from his role as finance critic after criticizing Poilievre’s vow to fire the Bank of Canada governor, which ruffled some feathers inside caucus.
“It’s a sad situation that Jean Charest, a patriot and champion of Canadian unity, continues to have his loyalty questioned by party members looking to stoke division,” said Michelle Coates Mather, a spokeswoman for his campaign.
“What’s the endgame here exactly? Lose the next federal election by alienating Conservative members who support Charest? Seems a poor strategy for a party looking to expand their base and win a federal election.”
While Poilievre enjoys the majority support of the party’s caucus, most of the party’s 10 Quebec MPs are backing Charest, opening the question of what happens next if he is not successful.
Asked recently about that possibility, MP Alain Rayes, who is organizing on Charest’s campaign, expressed confidence in the former Quebec premier’s chances, saying the party doesn’t need “American-style divisive politics.”
“I’m deeply convinced that our members will make the right choice,” he said in a statement.
The group Centre Ice Conservatives, a centre-right advocacy group formed during the leadership race, contends the party has room to grow if it leaves the fringes and concentrates on issues that matter in the mainstream.
Director Michael Stuart says both Charest and Poilievre have policies that speak to the centrists, and what they’re hearing from supporters of their group is a desire for more focus on “dinner table issues,” such as economic growth and jobs.
“There’s a lot of distraction with noise around vaccines and the convoy and those sorts of things.”
Not only did Poilievre support the “Freedom Convoy,” he used his message of “freedom” to campaign on the anger and frustration people felt because of government-imposed COVID-19 rules, like vaccine and mask mandates.
How he will handle social conservatives also remains an open question.
Poilievre has pledged no government led by him would introduce or pass legislation restricting abortion access.
Jack Fonseca, director of political operations for the anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition, said many of those who strongly oppose vaccine mandates also share values with social conservatives.
“They are largely pro-freedom, pro-family, and yes, even pro-life and pro-faith,” he said.
Social conservatives have traditionally been a well-mobilized part of the party’s base during leadership contests and helped deliver wins for O’Toole and former leader Andrew Scheer, who is now helping Poilievre in the race.
While Fonseca and other anti-abortion groups are encouraging members to pick social conservative candidate Leslyn Lewis as their first choice, he said the “freedom conservatives” Poilievre recruited will expect results.
That includes giving Lewis a critic role, he said.
“He will be forced to face that reality and to deliver policy commitments to the freedom conservatives and social conservatives that are his base.”
“If it doesn’t, the peril is you become a flip-flopper like Erin O’Toole,” he said, referring to walk-backs the former leader made on promises after winning the leadership.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Former B.C. solicitor-general Rich Coleman is returning to politics – Terrace Standard
Two years after he retired, former B.C. Solicitor-General Rich Coleman is returning to politics, this time at the municipal level, with the “Elevate Langley Voters Association” civic party in the Township of Langley, according to an Elections B.C. register of elector organizations.
The register lists former Langley East MLA Coleman as the “authorized principal official” for the party.
While he has registered a civic party, whether Coleman will be running in the Oct. 15 election himself remains to be seen.
In a response to a Langley Advance Times query on Saturday, Aug. 6, Coleman confirmed he has been approached about running for mayor, but hasn’t decided yet.
“A lot of people have been on me to run for mayor,” Coleman told the Langley Advance Times.
“I’m seriously considering it.”
Coleman said he registered the Elevate Langley party when he did, because the Election B.C. deadline to register elector organizations for the pending municipal elections was Aug. 2, and he wanted to provide a vehicle for some potential Township candidates he has been mentoring.
“I’ve got some young folks who want to run,” Coleman said.
In the Elections B.C. register entry, Elevate Langley listed a contact phone number that turned out to be the office number for current Langley East MLA Megan Dykeman, who said she has no involvement with the party, calling it “absolutely an error.”
Coleman said he would check into it.
In 2018, Coleman was considering a run for Surrey mayor, but decided against it.
Coleman spent 24 years in provincial politics before he retired in 2020, including four years as provincial Solicitor-General.
Langley Township councillors Eric Woodward and Blair Whitmarsh have also announced mayoralty bids. So has former councillor Michelle Sparrow.
Elections B.C.’s register of civic parties listed Woodward as the principal official for the “Contract with Langley Association” party, which, the filing indicates, will be fielding candidates for council and school board.
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