Merkel party pick to lead Germany ‘not convincing’: Bavarian rival

Tensions simmered among Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives on Friday as the State Premier of Bavaria openly criticised the man who beat him in a bruising battle to lead the alliance into elections.

Merkel party pick to lead Germany 'not convincing': Bavarian rival
(Photo by Michael Kappeler / POOL / AFP)

Armin Laschet, the head of Merkel’s CDU, won a bitter fight this week against Markus Söder, head of the smaller Bavarian CSU, to lead the conservatives into September’s election.

The vicious competition between Laschet, who is backed by the CDU’s leadership, and Söder, who is more popular among the public, has left the conservatives bitterly divided.

In an interview on Friday, Söder said he was not impressed by the reasoning behind Laschet’s candidacy, suggesting that it was not progressive enough.

READ ALSO: Meet Armin Laschet, the king of comebacks grasping for Merkel’s throne

“I was not convinced by the rationale behind the candidacy. I stand for modernisation in the programme,” Söder told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“I think for example, that modern economic policy must reconcile both the environmental and economic imperatives,” he said, rejecting claims that he was positioning himself too close to the increasingly popular Greens.

Asked if he was the “more modern candidate” of the two, Söder said that would be a “presumptuous exaggeration”.

But he later added that his “approach is perhaps a little more progressive”, be it in the areas of environmental policy, gender equality or the high-tech agenda.

The vicious infighting within Merkel’s CDU-CSU alliance has left voters looking elsewhere.

READ ALSO: Post-Merkel: Who stands the best chance of becoming Germany’s next chancellor?

Polls earlier in the week even had the Greens overtaking the conservatives to top the surveys.

The latest INSA survey shows the conservatives back up on top but only with a one percentage point lead above the Greens at 23 percent.

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Germany’s Scholz rejects talk of sending troops to Ukraine from Europe or NATO

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday rejected the idea of European or NATO countries sending troops to Ukraine after French President Emmanuel Macron said the idea could not be ruled out.

Germany's Scholz rejects talk of sending troops to Ukraine from Europe or NATO

“What was agreed from the beginning among ourselves and with each other also applies to the future, namely that there will be no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European states or NATO states,” Scholz told journalists.

Neither should soldiers based in those countries “actively participate in war events”, he said.

The discussion on this issue at a meeting of Ukraine’s backers hosted by Macron on Monday in Paris was “unanimous”, Scholz said. “It is important to regularly reassure each other over this.”

“The fact there was an understanding on this is, in my view, a very good and very important step forward.”

READ ALSO: Pro-Ukraine rallies across Europe on war anniversary

Keeping German soldiers from directly participating in the war between Russia and Ukraine was a “fundamental principle”, Scholz had said on Monday, before the meeting in Paris.

“No German soldiers on Ukrainian land and no participation of German soldiers,” he said, stressing that “this explicitly includes preventing an escalation into a war between NATO and Russia.”

Scholz’s position justified a decision not to send long-range Taurus missiles to Ukraine, despite urgent requests from Kyiv for German rockets.

READ ALSO: OPINION – Germany’s timid strategy risks both Ukraine’s defeat and more war in Europe

Germany could not copy French and British moves to send such long-range missiles to Ukraine and support the systems’ deployment, Scholz said.

“German soldiers must not be linked at any point or place to the targets that this system reaches,” he said.

“This is a very long-range weapon, and what the British and French are doing in terms of targeting and supporting targeting cannot be done in Germany,” Scholz said.

“In my view, it would be unjustifiable if we were to participate in targeting in the same way,” he added.