‘Most uptight people in the world’: Merkel successor defends controversial joke

From Merkel’s successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer defending her contentious carnival toilet joke to leaders attacking right-wing populism, there wasn’t a dull moment during Germany's political Ash Wednesday.

'Most uptight people in the world': Merkel successor defends controversial joke
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

When it comes to drama in politics, onlookers might think Germany is tame compared to other countries such as the UK and its lively Westminster debates.

But in the past two years, perhaps due to a changing landscape in the Bundestag and in local governments – politics has been anything but boring. And political Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch) is no exception.

It's a day that originated in Bavaria a century ago, and has become a tradition for all politicians to down beer, hand out sharp insults, jeer and cheer. This year was no different.

'Most uptight people in the world'

In Demmin, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, CDU party chief and likely future conservative candidate for the chancellery, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, defended her carnival joke that mocked the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms, saying she couldn't understand the reaction it got.

“If we're so uptight, as has been the case in the past few days, then a piece of tradition and culture in Germany will be ruined, and we shouldn't allow that,” Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK, said. “Right now it's as if we're the most uptight people in the world. This cannot go on.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer had triggered outraged reactions as she attempted to poke fun at politically progressive Berlin in the Lake Constance town of Stockach in southern Germany last week. She said newly introduced toilets for intersex people were “for those men who don't know whether to pee standing up or sitting down”.

The comment was greeted with jeers, fanfare and laughter, but fewer people were laughing when it was shared on the website and Twitter.

SEE ALSO: Merkel successor slammed over intersex toilet joke


In Demmin, Kramp-Karrenbauer also criticized the debate about whether it's appropriate for children to dress up in Native American or sheik costumes.

As the Local reported, a Kita in Hamburg had asked that children did not dress up in problematic costumes during Carnival celebrations.

SEE ALSO: Why this Kita in Hamburg celebrated Carnival without Native American costumes

It's caused a storm in Germany, with many questioning if there's too much of a focus on political correctness. Others praised the decision as forward-thinking.

Kramp-Karrenbauer made her feelings clear, however. The CDU audience applauded when their leader said she wanted a Germany where children could play cowboys and Indians, and “where they're allowed to play with dolls or with Lego or what they want in kindergarten, without you having to tell a 3-year-old that they have to be culturally sensitive.”

“That's the type of madness we're seeing here,” she added.

100th year

As the EU parliamentary elections take place in May, party leaders called on their members to deliver a strong campaign.

The leaders of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and its sister party the Christian Socialists (CSU) used the day to attack right-wing populists in Alternative for Germany (AfD).

CSU chief Markus Söder called on moderate AfD members to resign from the party. “Return and leave the Nazis alone in the AfD. It is time for a change of direction,” said the Bavarian Prime Minister during his speech in Passau.

In Demmin, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, CDU party chief and likely future conservative candidate for the chancellery, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, also referenced the AfD. She said: “Those who want hatred, those who want exclusion, those who want nationalism, those who want Germany to fall out of the EU, can vote for them.”

Political Ash Wednesday was celebrating its 100th anniversary this year: in 1919, the Bavarian Farmers' Association was invited to a rally for the first time at the cattle market in Vilshofen, Lower Bavaria – and the political spectacle was born.

After the Second World War it was revived, and now all parties mark the day.

During yesterday's speeches, the AfD slammed all other parties, the media, churches, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the European Union and the pupils who've been demonstrating for climate changes. Lower Bavarian AfD district leader Stephan Protschka said: “The EU is a construct that no one needs.”

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Germany’s centre-right CDU to elect new leadership by end of the year

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party will elect its new leadership by the year's end, general secretary Paul Ziemiak said Monday, detailing plans for a clean slate after a disastrous election that the party lost to the Social Democrats.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and CDU leader Armin Laschet on the election campaign trail in Aachen before the election.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and CDU leader Armin Laschet on the election campaign trail in Aachen before the election. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

In power for 16 years under Merkel, the Christian Democratic Union is grappling with its deepest crisis in decades after turning in a historic low score in September’s election.

Its leader Armin Laschet last week signalled his readiness to step aside, setting the ball rolling for renewal at the top.

READ ALSO: Laschet signals he’s ready to step down as CDU leader

Ziemiak said a date for the congress to determine the new makeup of the party’s top brass as well as how rank and file members can participate in the leadership selection process will be announced on November 2nd.

But the party’s leaders “today agreed unanimously that we will elect a completely new executive board,” he said, adding that in terms of the calendar, the “window for this is year’s end”.

Bild daily had reported that the party has made a tentative booking for December 6th-13th in Dresden for its possible congress.

READ ALSO: Germany edges a step closer to a government led by Social Democrats

Laschet, who is state premier of Germany’s most populous region North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected head of the CDU in January.

For some time, he was the clear favourite to succeed Merkel, who is bowing out of politics after running four consecutive coalitions.

But his party’s ratings began to slide as he committed a series of gaffes, including being caught on camera laughing in the background during a solemn tribute to flood victims.

With the CDU’s ratings plunging, Merkel tried to boost Laschet’s campaign with joint appearances, but was unable to help the conservatives pull off a win on election day.