The struggle to be Merkel’s successor divides the German CDU and CSU | Germany

A There is a heated battle between two leading German politicians over who should be Angela Merkel’s successor as chancellor candidate in the next election, with the conservative alliance under pressure to choose between a consensus team player with a reputation for malleability or a charismatic political alliance. rounder in the populist shape.

After attending a meeting of the CDU / CSU parliamentary faction on Tuesday afternoon, rivals Armin Laschet and Markus Söder came forward to say the talks were productive and they hoped a decision would be reached by the end of the week. to be.

The camps behind Laschet, the chairman of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and leader of North Rhine-Westphalia, and Söder, the Bavarian state leader and head of the CDU’s sister party, the Christian Social Union, are so divided on the issue that questions are asked whether the controversial Conservative alliance will be able to restore its unity in time for September’s election.

There has been much criticism that the rivalry has diverted too much attention from the fight against the pandemic, which is now in the third wave.

Laschet, a 60-year-old Catholic miner’s son from Aachen, received formal backing from CDU regional leaders as chancellor on Monday. As head of the dominant party in the alliance, who should have a compelling reason to let the smaller sister party steal the spotlight, he ultimately has a higher chance of being elected.

But Söder, a 54-year-old Protestant son of a Nuremberg builder, who announced his candidacy on Sunday, has the support of an estimated 70 CDU MPs out of 245. He is the most popular among CDU voters and is the person of the German population. in general would like to see Merkel’s successor.

According to a recent YouGov poll, only 12% of Germans were candidates for Laschet as chancellors, compared to 46% for Söder.

Laschet was elected as the new president of the CDU in January, in a low-key poll following the resignation of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who had been Merkel’s personal choice but failed to meet the challenge. But the subsequent historically low election results for the CDU in regional elections in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg, and Laschet’s perceived indecision during the pandemic, left a bad impression on him. His recent proposal for a so-called ‘bridge lockdown’, to bridge the time difference between the current increase in coronavirus infections and when the effect of vaccines will occur, has been widely ridiculed.

Söder’s no-nonsense crisis management, in which he often continues with lockdown restrictions, as the federal government seemed to hesitate, has earned him praise – even though Bavaria has fared no better in the crisis than elsewhere. He is also adept at stealing headlines, including announcing a pre-contract deal last week to purchase 250 million doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, which has not yet received official approval.

Söder said this week that his increased popularity should be decisive. “The real crisis would be if we performed better in the election.” Currently, the alliance has less than 30% in the polls. “Our goal should be to get a much better result than that… we have the potential to hit 35 plus,” he said.

Paul Ziemiak, general secretary of the CDU, said: “Armin Laschet has broad support… this is about the ability to lead, the ability to bring people together in a team; it’s about the power to integrate all of society … and Laschet is the one who can do it best. “

The only two German general elections in which a CSU chancellor candidate has appeared did not go in favor of the Bavarian party. Franz Josef Strauss obtained 44.5% of the vote in 1980, but it was not enough to overthrow Helmut Schmidt’s coalition government. Twenty-two years later, the battle between the Social Democrats’ Edmund Stoiber and Gerhard Schröder ended in a 38.5% draw, but he failed to disband the incumbent coalition.

The open war between Laschet and Söder has been called by the German media the most important power struggle of the year, a political duel that threatens the delicate symbiosis of the parties. After all, it could decide who takes the reins of Europe’s largest economy after nearly 16 years of Merkel. More importantly in most German minds, the person who wins will have to try to lead the country, including its controversial economy and society, into a stable and prosperous post-Covid 19 era.

Both men have said they want a decision made before Pentecost weekend in May. But the alliance is under pressure to make its direction clear before then, with the Greens, its main rival, set to announce on Monday which of the two leaders will run.

When asked on Tuesday whether she was concerned that the pair’s rivalry could damage the bloc and lead to the loss of the chancellery, Merkel made it clear she had no intention of intervening. “I wanted, will and will stay out of it,” she said.