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German conservatives fear ‘polarisation’ over Merkel succession

The leader of Angela Merkel's party warned of a "polarising" election campaign Monday as Germany's conservatives prepared for fresh talks over the bitter battle to succeed the chancellor at upcoming elections.

German conservatives fear 'polarisation' over Merkel succession
Armin Laschet talking on Monday. Photo:D PA

“We know from the USA what it means to have polarised election campaigns, and we know how long it took and is taking a new president to once again reconcile the country,” said Armin Laschet, leader of the Christian Democratic
Union (CDU).

“We should spare ourselves that in Germany,” he added.

Laschet, who is state premier of Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, has been locked in a power struggle against his Bavarian challenger Markus Soeder, leader of the CSU party, over who will lead the conservatives into general elections on September 26th.

Overnight talks in Berlin between the two men on Sunday evening produced no result, fuelling speculation that the candidacy issue may be settled by a vote amongst parliamentarians from the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU,
on Tuesday.

On Monday, Laschet announced further talks among his party’s leadership, while Soeder made a thinly veiled call for the larger CDU to back him as the more popular candidate.

Broad backing

Söder, who declared his bid for the job a week ago, on Monday repeated his promise to step aside “without resentment” if the CDU nominated Laschet.

Yet having refused to back down when the CDU leadership came out in support for Laschet last week, the 54-year-old said he was ready to take the job if he had “broad backing” from the CDU.

“Broad backing means when the board, parliamentary group and rank and file all want it,” he added.

“It is important to respect the members, the MPs and the population in general,” said Söder, noting that he had received support for his candidacy from the wider public.

A recent poll by public broadcaster ARD showed 44 percent of Germans in favour of Söder as most qualified as the CDU-CSU’s chancellor candidate.

Laschet only had 15 percent of support.

Yet Söder also said that he would accept a decision from the CDU if it favoured Laschet.

“We don’t want to and we won’t see a rift between the CSU and the CDU,” he insisted.

READ MORE: Merkel’s conservatives fail to reach deal on who will be chancellor candidate

Surging Greens

Divisions in the conservative camp were further underlined on Monday as the Greens – who are polling second behind the CDU-CSU – announced co-chair Annalena Baerbock as their candidate at a slick press event with no signs of strife within the centre-left party.

Congratulating Baerbock on the nomination, Laschet promised a “fair election campaign” and urged parties to be “respectful” of each other in a veiled warning to Söder.

The CSU leader struck a more combative note, saying that he disagreed with the Greens’ “core ideology” when it came to social and economic policy.

Laschet said he had also invited Söder to Monday’s talks, yet the Bavarian said he would not be able to make it back to Berlin in time to take part.

“We need to talk to each other a lot in these days. The aim is that the CDU-CSU wins the elections, and that can only happen if we are together,” said Laschet.

Member comments

  1. I fail to see how any of this is polarising, seeing as it´s just two different conservative candidates from sister party´s. Perhaps the article title should more correctly read: German conservatives fear change.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin

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