Merkel successor cleans up as Putzfrau Gretel in carnival role

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of Germany’s Christian Democrat party, returned to her home state of Saarland over the weekend to reprise her annual role as Putzfrau Gretel (Gretel the cleaning lady) during carnival celebrations.

Dressed in an apron and checkered headscarf, Kramp-Karrenbauer cracked jokes about December’s CDU leadership election, the fight banning diesel vehicles and political dysfunction in Berlin in front of a crowd of more than a thousand people.

Many German politicians traditionally participate in carnival celebrations, dressing up and making humorous speeches. This year, Germany’s justice minister, Katarina Barley, came dressed as the Statue of Liberty while Markus Söder, the leader of Merkel’s sister party CSU, gave himself a punk makeover.

Markus Söder, and his wife, Karin.

Markus Söder and his wife, Karin. Photograph: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance/dpa

Kramp-Karrenbauer’s predecessor at the CDU, Angela Merkel, was not one to dress up.

Pushing a broom across the stage, Kramp-Karrenbauer joked that she had worked her way up to “cleaning lady of the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus” – home of the CDU headquarters in Berlin. “No, no, no, not much has changed,” she said. “I have no idea how I got into this. What a mess.”

German justice minister Katarina Barley joins in a carnival session in southern Germany.

The German justice minister, Katarina Barley, joins in a carnival session in southern Germany. Photograph: Thilo Schmülgen/Reuters

Before taking up a leadership role with the CDU, Kramp-Karrenbauer served in Saarland’s government and then as state premier. Her appearance at the weekend was a way of signalling that she is still engaged with home-state traditions even as she ascends to greater responsibility nationally.

A self-professed carnival fan, she has appeared in the “Gretel” role since 2009, according to the German press agency dpa.

Angela Merkel is not known to dress up for carnival.

Angela Merkel is not known to dress up for carnival. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Kramp-Karrenbauer repeatedly spoke about the political mess in Berlin, where the centre-right CDU reentered a grand coalition with the centre-left last year after a disappointing election for both parties in 2017. The problem with politicians, she said in character, is that they “chatted a lot but decided nothing”.

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