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

Two conservative leaders locked in battle for Angela Merkel's crown failed to reach a deal by their self-imposed deadline, pushing the chancellor's CDU-CSU alliance deeper into crisis Monday months before elections.

Merkel's conservatives fail to reach deal on who will be chancellor candidate
Armin Laschet and Markus Söder on April 11th. Photo: DPA

Armin Laschet, the chief of Merkel’s CDU party, and Markus Söder, the leader of Bavaria sister party CSU, have been in a scrum for a week over who will lead the conservatives into elections in September.

The rivals had earlier said an agreement would be found by the end of the week but party sources told AFP Sunday that a deal was still out of reach with closed-door negotiations between both men ongoing.

Söder and Laschet flew in on Sunday night to Berlin for talks, German media reported.

As head of the Christian Democratic Union, Merkel loyalist Laschet would normally be the obvious choice for the alliance’s chancellor candidate nomination.

But with support for the parties plumbing new lows amid anger over Germany’s pandemic management, the more popular Söder has put up a formidable challenge against Laschet.

Söder, who declared his bid for the job last Sunday, had then said he would step aside “without resentment” if larger party CDU was to decide for his rival Laschet.

READ ALSO: Merkel’s conservatives in disarray as scrum for Merkel’s job opens wounds

But even after the CDU’s leadership came out a day later in support for Laschet, Soeder refused to back down. Instead, the 54-year-old cited popularity ratings as he dug in his heels.

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.

The infighting has thrown the conservatives into disarray as Merkel is about to bow out after 16 years in power.

It has also sapped energy at a time when Germany is struggling to put down a raging third wave of the coronavirus pandemic that has already claimed almost 80,000 lives in Europe’s biggest economy.

‘Backroom deal’

With no agreement in sight, conservatives up and down the country were calling emergency meetings to thrash out who to support.

The alliance’s youth organisation Junge Union on Sunday voted to back Söder, with 14 out of 18 of its chapters in favour of the Bavarian.

“Both candidates have had enough time to come to a decision. That didn’t happen, so we see ourselves forced to position ourselves,” said Junge Union chief Tilman Kuban.

Meanwhile, some MPs supporting Söder had been collecting signatures to force a vote of the CDU-CSU parliamentary group when they meet on Tuesday.

Party heavyweight Wolfgang Schäuble has hit out against Soeder for undermining the CDU leadership’s endorsement of Laschet as “only a backroom deal”.

The conservative alliance would struggle in the elections without a strong CDU, warned the former finance minister who is also currently speaker of the house.

READ MORE: What you need to know about the two men vying to replace Merkel as Chancellor

Yet others were starting to shift in favour of Söder.

The state premiers of Saarland and Saxony-Anhalt have both indirectly said that Söder should not be written off.

“It is completely clear that the question of with whom one will have the better chance at the elections must play a central role,” said Saarland’s leader Tobias Hans.

By Hui Min NEO

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POLITICS

Doreen Denstädt becomes eastern Germany’s first black minister

Former policewoman Doreen Denstädt became the first black minister in ex-communist eastern Germany on Wednesday, taking over the justice and migration brief in a hotbed of right-wing extremism.

Doreen Denstädt becomes eastern Germany's first black minister

Denstädt, 45, belongs to the Greens and assumed the office in Thuringia state from Dirk Adams, who was fired after his management of immigration policy lost the support of the ecologist party.

Thuringia is governed by a fractious coalition of the far-left Linke party, the Social Democrats and the Greens who formed a bulwark against the far-right AfD party, which is polling at around 30 percent.

The state chapter of the AfD, an anti-migrant, anti-Muslim party, is considered particularly radical and has been placed under surveillance by the
domestic security watchdog, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

“If you like the constitution in Thuringia, you’re considered a leftist,” Denstädt, whose Tanzanian father studied in Germany, told the daily Tagesspiegel.

“I can be visible – after all I always stood out in a white-majority society, whether I wanted to or not.”

Denstädt, whose new office oversees the judicial system as well as migrant and refugee affairs, has said she intends to be a voice for victims of crime, racism and discrimination.

She noted that she as a German citizen is regularly asked to show her residency papers and does not ride public transportation at night for fear of racist attacks.

READ ALSO: Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, study finds

Denstädt, who only entered politics in 2021, faced a deluge of hate speech online when it was announced she would become a minister.

But she said she has also received widespread encouragement and support for her highly visible new position.

“An incredible number of people got in touch to say they’re proud of me and hopeful about what I can do,” she told Tagesspiegel.

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