SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

Merkel’s conservatives back Laschet as chancellor candidate

Angela Merkel's conservative party early on Tuesday  firmly backed Armin Laschet to be the conservative bloc's chancellor candidate at Germany's upcoming elections, hoping to draw a line under a bitter battle with challenger Markus Söder.

Merkel's conservatives back Laschet as chancellor candidate
Armin Laschet on Monday. Photo: DPA

After more than six hours of talks, 46 executive board members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) held a secret online ballot that resulted in 77.5 percent support for party leader Laschet, participants told AFP.

Bavarian premier Söder, leader of the CDU’s smaller CSU sister party, garnered 22.5 percent.

Söder, who is more popular than Laschet in opinion surveys, had earlier said he would accept the CDU’s decision and step aside “without resentment” if senior members favoured his rival.

The late-night vote marked the culmination of a bruising week-long power struggle that has brought Merkel’s once stable CDU-CSU alliance to the brink of implosion.

Armin Laschet and Markus Söder. Photo: DPA

With just five months to go before the September 26th election, when Merkel bows out after 16 years in power, the conservatives’ poll ratings have plummeted recently over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Laschet, a long-time Merkel ally and the premier of Germany’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, had already secured the backing of CDU top brass last week.

READ ALSO: German conservatives fear ‘polarisation’ over Merkel succession

Elected as head of the CDU in January, Laschet would usually be the obvious choice to lead the centre-right CDU and its Bavarian CSU partner into the elections.

But the 60-year-old has been panned in recent months for flip-flopping on measures aimed at curbing the virus spread in his state, even attracting criticism from Merkel herself.

Laschet’s claim to be chancellor candidate has been fiercely contested by Söder, 54, who after months of keeping Germans guessing about his ambitions finally announced his bid for the top job on April 11th.

The former television journalist, who has echoed Merkel’s stance for tough curbs to tame Germany’s Covid-19 surge, currently commands more support from the German public and conservative lawmakers.

Merkel has not weighed in on the row, saying last week: “I wanted to, want to and will stay out of it.”

Participants at Monday’s marathon talks told German media that Merkel sat in on the video conference but did not contribute to the discussions, with some observers reading into her silence a lack of support for Laschet.

Disciplined Greens

Söder told reporters on Monday that the CDU, as “the bigger sister party” had the ultimate say in who to send into the race for Merkel’s job.

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

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.

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

It remains to be seen whether the CDU’s internal vote marks the end of the conservative tug-of-war, with CDU-CSU parliamentarians set to hold a meeting on Tuesday.

Addressing Monday’s late night video conference, Volker Bouffier, regional premier of Hesse state who supports Laschet, warned that the board’s decision “may not be accepted” by the party base.

The squabbles have damaged the alliance’s standing at a time when Europe’s biggest economy is struggling to end a pandemic that has killed 80,000 and ravaged thousands of businesses and livelihoods.

The chaos in the conservative camp also stands in stark contrast to the centre-left Green party, polling second behind the CDU-CSU, which on Monday announced co-chair Annalena Baerbock as its chancellor candidate at a slick press event with no signs of strife.

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 Sôder.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

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.

SHOW COMMENTS