Chairman of Merkel’s party makes progress
The leadership of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has backed party chairman Armin Laschet’s bid to become the centre-right candidate for Germany’s next leader, one of his deputies said.
The development gives him an advantage after he and a rival both declared their ambitions.
The Union bloc aims to decide quickly on its candidate after months of shadow-boxing between Mr Laschet, the head of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, and Markus Söder, who leads its smaller Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union.
Mr Laschet and Mr Söder— the governors of Germany’s two most populous states, North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria respectively — both officially declared on Sunday that they are prepared to run, but insisted that they will quickly find a harmonious solution.
They did not specify how they will do so.
The leaderships of the CDU and the CSU held separate meetings yesterday.
Volker Bouffier, the governor of Hesse state and a deputy party leader, said the CDU’s top leadership backed Mr Laschet’s candidacy, though it did not make a formal decision.
“We expressed clear support for our leader and made clear that we consider him exceptionally well-suited, and asked him to discuss the way forward together with Markus Söder,” Mr Bouffier said.
He added that the party wants a decision within a week.
The CDU’s local branch in Berlin, which is relatively weak, backed Mr Söder.
It was unclear how many others in the party might come out for the Bavarian leader.
Mr Laschet’s support in the CDU is a decisive factor because his is by far the bigger of the two parties.
It runs in 15 of Germany’s 16 states, while the CSU runs only in Bavaria.
Mr Söder said on Sunday he is ready to run “if the CDU — which is the bigger sister, that’s very clear — supports this broadly”.
He added that “it’s also clear that if the big sister says that’s not its proposal and it has a different proposal … we would accept that”. Mr Söder, 54, said the candidate should be the one with the best chances in the September 26 election, in which Mrs Merkel is not seeking a fifth term after 16 years in power.
That underlines a weakness for Mr Laschet — current polls show much better ratings for Mr Söder, who has cultivated an image as a decisive backer of tough action in the coronavirus pandemic.