The duel is now official in the race to succeed Angela Merkel: the Bavarian Markus Söder and the CDU party leader Armin Laschet are seeking the nomination of the conservatives for the legislative elections, in a competition which should be resolved quickly.
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“We have found that we are both fit and ready” to be candidates for the right-wing camp, said Markus Söder, boss of the Land of Bavaria, after a closed meeting on Sunday, executives of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group.
The leader of the CSU, sister party of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has thus put an end to the suspense he maintained on his desire to access the chancellery when he has long been the favorite in the polls among the conservative contenders.
Armin Laschet, who took over the leadership of the CDU in January, has, as expected, said he also wanted the nomination for the legislative elections of September 26.
“Given the situation in the country, with a Chancellor who is leaving office, our goal is to achieve as much unity as possible between the CDU and the CSU, because the stakes are high,” said Mr. Laschet in a statement. joint press conference with his rival.
“Europe is watching us, the world needs a strong Germany,” he added.
The Conservatives have promised to choose their candidate “between Easter and Pentecost” (May 24), but the timetable is expected to accelerate.
“We need a quick decision, very soon,” argued Armin Laschet on Sunday, in unison with Markus Söder.
Meetings with conservative officials will follow one another in the coming days to try to come to a choice.
The deputy chairman of the parliamentary group, Alexander Dobrindt, said he expected the parties to decide “within two weeks”.
Goal ? Get out of the rut as quickly as possible. Because the end of Angela Merkel’s reign, after 16 years in power, turns into ordeal for the movement, to the point of endangering their victory in the legislative elections, which seemed assured a few months ago.
Erratic management of the pandemic, setback in two recent regional elections, the CDU and the Christian Social Union (CSU) are also splashed by a scandal of financial embezzlement around the purchase of medical masks.
The CDU-CSU Union currently only collects 26% to 28.5% of voting intentions for the legislative elections of September 26. Almost ten points lower than in February, and an abysmal drop since last year when it climbed to 40%.
Now the conservative camp is followed by the Greens, who dream of delighting the chancellery.
Markus Söder, 54, has the polls on his side. According to the public channel ARD, 54% of voters believe that he is a good candidate. For the sixty-year-old Armin Laschet, the share of favorable opinions is only 16%.
But it is generally up to the CDU to present a candidate. The CSU, a regional group, has only twice represented the entire conservative camp in the elections, with two failures.
Armin Laschet for his part accumulates setbacks. His recent proposal for a strict, but brief lockdown to curb the third wave of contamination has sparked criticism and even sneer.
The regional leader of North Rhine-Westphalia had indeed so far championed the easing, to the point of coming into conflict with Angela Merkel.
For the elected official, long perceived as the political heir of Angela Merkel, the difficulty is to embody both continuity and renewal.
In an interview with the newspaper Bild on Sunday, he tried again at this balance, recalling having been “for years in agreement with the Chancellor on fundamental questions of politics”, in particular that of the reception of the refugees who divided the party in 2015.
But he also called for “a new era”, wishing to accelerate the digital and ecological transition and fight bureaucracy.
Populist for some, skilful tactician for others, Markus Söder, like Angela Merkel, championed strict measures against the virus.
The urgency of appointing a candidate is all the greater since the Social Democrats (SPD) have settled the issue for several months, by choosing the current Minister of Finance, Olaf Scholz. The Greens will decide on April 19.