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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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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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