German conservatives set out again in search of a successor to Merkel

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Who to succeed Angela Merkel? Favorite of the polls, his conservative party is struggling to bring out an indisputable candidate and is organizing a debate on Saturday to decide between three contenders, whose campaign is shaken by the pandemic.

The moderate Armin Laschet, the liberal Friedrich Merz and the former minister Norbert Röttgen will try to score points before the appointment, at the congress of the Christian-conservative party CDU in early December, of a new leader.

The winner has every chance of being the right-wing candidate in the legislative elections scheduled for no later than October 2021, at the end of which Merkel must leave her post after 16 years in the chancellery.

A time considered the “runner-up” of Merkel, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, decided in February to leave the head of the CDU for lack of authority over its troops.

The search for a favorite is all the more difficult as the Chancellor, who excludes standing for a fifth term, is riding a record popularity, reinforced by her good management of the Covid-19 crisis.

This health theme has eclipsed all the others, making the campaign for his succession hardly audible. The militant gatherings, the field visits are for the most part canceled. Saturday night’s debate, hosted by the CDU youth movement, will take place online, without an audience.

The Chancellor herself did not interfere in the internal affairs of her party and did not support any of the candidates.

Lack of relief

Angela Merkel has had to put things right several times and recall that she would “really not” be a candidate. An insistence symptomatic of the lack of enthusiasm aroused in the polls by the three candidates in the running.

In a popularity survey for the post of chancellor, published on Friday, the moderate Armin Laschet (59 years), leader of the Land of North Rhine Westphalia, and the liberal Friedrich Merz (64 years) are neck and neck, but without collecting more 27% positive opinions.

At the head of the most populous region of Germany, but also the most affected by the epidemic, Mr. Laschet pays for his will at the beginning of the summer to deconfin too quickly to restart the economy.

Since then, the one who is in the continuity of Ms. Merkel, has been more discreet and relies on the support given to him by Jens Spahn, Minister of Health who has gained notoriety in favor of the health crisis.

In the absence of an elective mandate, Friedrich Merz, little appreciated by Angela Merkel, is not very audible in the management of the pandemic. His ultraliberal positions have also put him out of step with the massive aid decided by the government to help the economy face the crisis.

Former Minister of the Environment, specialist in international issues, Norbert Röttgen is struggling to get out of his image as an expert, relentlessly in the party.

The 4th man

Even once nominated, the official CDU candidate could see his plans thwarted by Markus Söder, 53, Minister President of Bavaria and Chairman of CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s party.

If he repeats not to consider leaving his lands in southern Germany, he is clearly ahead in the polls other contenders on the right, environmentalists or on the left in the race for the chancellery. It collects 52% positive opinions in the latest survey for the ARD channel.

He is taking advantage, luckily of the calendar, of his provisional functions as president of the conference of the German regions, sitting alongside Merkel at each press conference devoted to the virus.

The conservatives are also taking advantage of weak alternatives in the race for the chancellery: the official candidate of the Social Democrats, the current Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz, is entangled in a fraud scandal as environmentalists and the far right appear to be struggling on issues related to the health crisis.

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