Angela Merkel’s legacy in tatters as new candidate ‘way behind’ in chancellorship race

Angela Merkel’s speech interrupted at Bundestag

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Armin Laschet was named as the German centre-right’s candidate for Chancellor in this year’s national election. Mr Laschet said he would campaign on a platform of change and innovation, promising a fresh start after Mrs Merkel’s 16-year reign. The leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, prevailed in a battle with Markus Söder that exposed deep rifts in the centre-right movement.

Mr Söder exited the race for Chancellor after a six-hour meeting of the CDU governing executive on Monday night.

In a secret ballot, 31 members supported the CDU leader while only nine voted for Mr Söder.

The result of the power struggle is in line with precedent: the CDU leader traditionally gets to run for Chancellor, representing both the CDU and the CSU.

However, many in the CDU/CSU are deeply worried about the prospects of a Laschet-candidacy.

Mr Laschet is an ideological ally of Mrs Merkel and has said that if elected Chancellor, he would continue her middle-of-the-road policies.

He was long considered her natural successor.

However, his popularity has suffered over the course of the pandemic, when he has come across as hesitant and erratic.

On the other hand, Mr Söder, who has earned a reputation as a decisive crisis manager, has seen his approval ratings soar.

In a recent podcast, POLITICO’s Matthew Karnitschnig suggested Mrs Merkel’s legacy could soon be left in tatters, as he questioned whether Mr Laschet could lead the party to victory.

He said: “There was a poll out this week that showed that less than four percent of Germans have confidence in Laschet’s leadership qualities.

“That’s a dismal result.

“That’s not the only finding, it’s pretty much across the whole board.

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“Laschet is just way behind.

“His camp would just say polls are not that significant but if you look at polls over the past year, there is a lot of consistency when it comes to Söder.”

He added in the podcast titled ‘EU Confidential’: “In one poll out this week he even took out Merkel.

“So I think that there is going to be a lot of soul searching after this if they go with Laschet.

“He is weakened into battle.

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“And I think whatever happens Söder will emerge stronger.”

Furthermore, the CDU faces a strong challenge from the opposition Greens, who some pollsters believe could win September’s election.

The party chose Annalena Baerbock, a 40-year-old MP, as its candidate for Chancellor on Monday, in a smooth process that presented a sharp contrast to the open power struggle in the CDU/CSU.

The election comes amid growing scandals and accusations of graft against Mrs Merkel’s CDU and their Bavarian sister-party.

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