German conservatives choose continuity with the Merkel era

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The choice of continuity with the centrist era of Angela Merkel: the German conservative party CDU elected on Saturday as president the moderate Armin Laschet against the liberal Friedrich Merz, in favor of a change of bar to the right.

• Read also: Key vote for Merkel’s succession to Germany

With a majority of 521 votes of the 1,001 delegates called to vote, Armin Laschet edged Friedrich Merz (466 votes) in the second round of an internal ballot. He is thus in a good position to lead the conservative camp to the general elections in September, but does not yet have the guarantee.

“I want us to succeed together and that we ensure that the Christian Democratic Union” (CDU) is brought to the chancellery in September, reacted Mr. Laschet to his victory.

Mr. Laschet, who came behind Mr. Merz in the first round, benefited from a carry over from the supporters of a third candidate, Norbert Röttgen, also a supporter of a moderate line and eliminated in the first round.

The result of the online ballot, due to the pandemic, must still be formally confirmed by mail by the movement’s delegates.

The day before, Mr. Laschet, who heads North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous region of the country, had already received the thinly veiled support of Ms. Merkel, advocating the continuation of a “centrist” course and the rejection of polarization.

This election is decisive for the future of Germany with the legislative elections at the end of September and the programmed end of the Merkel era, in power since 2005.

The choice of the right-wing and center-right candidate for this election will however only be made in the spring. And other suitors remain in ambush, in a Germany hit hard by the second pandemic wave.

Verbal slips

For the first time since 2000, the CDU will not be headed by a woman.

A time “runner-up” to Ms. Merkel, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had succeeded her as president in 2018, before resigning in early 2020, for lack of being able to win.

The candidates in the running presented different profiles.

Sworn enemy of the Chancellor since she ousted him from the presidency of the conservative group in the Bundestag in 2002, Friedrich Merz dreamed of revenge. He misses her again.

The businessman had already been beaten by a hair by Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer in 2018. With his hard stance on immigration, likely to attract voters seduced by the far right, he could however continue to weigh on the CDU in the future given its very honorable result.

In his speech on Saturday, he called on the CDU not to seek “compromise” at all costs.

Mr. Merz has failed to erase his handicaps, from his highly paid duties at asset manager BlackRock to his verbal slippages.

Saturday morning, he wanted to challenge his supposed lack of interest in the cause of women by the fact that he had a wife and daughters.

Armin Laschet, 59, has several advantages. This moderate, former journalist with laughing eyes, is indeed walking in the footsteps of the popular chancellor.

Ms Merkel hinted at her preference on Friday for the “team” he is forming with Minister of Health Jens Spahn.

Mr. Laschet can appeal to the centrist electorate and, if he is a candidate in September, build a possible coalition with the Greens, the country’s second largest force.


He paid tribute in his speech on Saturday to the Chancellor, recalling that when she arrived at the Chancellery in 2005, Germany was “sick of Europe”. He too wishes to be a candidate for the chancellery.

The delegates did not hold him against the problems of managing the epidemic in his region. Mr. Laschet had thus pleaded in the spring for an easing of restrictions deemed too early by experts.

It received overwhelming support from delegates who voted for Mr. Röttgen, an expert in international relations who promised to rejuvenate and feminize the party.

Regarding the candidacy for the chancellery, another official, Markus Söder, leader of the sister party CSU, remains well placed. He has become one of the favorite personalities of the Germans by advocating strict restrictions in the face of the pandemic.

Even if he denies it, he dreams of being invited by the CDU to take the plunge after a series of local elections in mid-March. And become, perhaps, the first chancellor from the CSU.

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