26th Sep 2023

Merkel party chiefs support Laschet's chancellor bid

  • CDU party chief Armin Laschet with fellow party member, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: European Commission)

The top brass of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party has signaled its support for party chairman Armin Laschet as its candidate for chancellor in September's general election.

While the leader of CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), Markus Söder threw his hat in the race on Sunday (11 April) to replace chancellor Angela Merkel, the CDU's choice is likely to be decisive.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • CSU leader and Bavarian premier Markus Söder (r) with former EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (Photo: European Commission)

But the CDU governing executive committee decision on Monday (12 April) to back Laschet could open up a potential clash with Söder, Bavaria's premier, and the CSU itself.

Volker Bouffier, the state premier of Hesse, said the CDU's executive had unanimously backed Laschet on Monday, but no formal decision has been taken.

German media reported that the final decision could come in the next week.

Finding a candidate to fill Merkel's shoes, who has been able to hold onto power for 16 years by absorbing the policies of her party's competitors, is proving to be challenging, with the CDU under pressure in the polls.

The choice has also exposed unresolved questions for the CDU on how the party that has dominated politics in Germany since the second world war wants to move forward in the post-Merkel era.

Polls show Söder is ahead of Laschet among the general public, and the party alliance could have a better chance of winning the elections with him as a candidate.

In a survey from early April by ARD public broadcaster, only 19 percent of Germans believed Laschet would be a good CDU-CSU candidate, with 54 percent saying Söder would be a good candidate.

Söder has said he would accept the CDU's pick for a candidate but it remains to be seen if his party, the CSU will agree to Laschet as their joint candidate. The CSU top leaders are meeting later on Monday.

The CDU and CSU traditionally put forward a joint candidate at elections, usually the CDU leader.

However, since Laschet was elected CDU chief in January, the party's support has decreased in the polls.

Söder meanwhile has argued that the joint candidate should be the one with the best chance of winning elections in September.

Pandemic fallout

Voters have blamed the CDU for the slow roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines, and are irked by the federal government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Laschet, trying to define his own image as CDU leader, got into a spat with Merkel over Covid-19 lockdown measures, and defended his region's relaxed interpretation of national measures.

On the other, Söder aligned himself with the chancellor and backed tougher lockdown measures as the third wave hit Germany.

Last month the CDU saw its worst-ever results in elections in the two states of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

As parties try to pick up momentum ahead of the September election, the CDU's bad performance is a worrying omen for the centre-right bloc.

The CDU has lost almost 10 percentage points in the polls since the beginning of the year, and now stands at 27 percent, while the Green party is closing in, polling currently at 22 percent.

The CDU and CSU were also hurt by revelations that some of its MPs pocketed commissions from the procurement of face masks during the pandemic, and several Bundestag members needed to step down.

The CDU state parties want a quick decision on the joint candidate in order to start campaigning as soon as possible rather than get bogged down by internal struggles.

Only two German general elections have featured a CSU chancellor candidate before - both unsuccessfully.

In 1980, the CSU's Franz Josef Strauss failed to unseat Helmut Schmidt's coalition government, and in 2002, CSU candidate Edmund Stoiber did not succeed in unseating chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Merkel and party chief clash over Covid-19 measures

Chancellor Angela Merkel said if German regions do not impose stricter measures, she would have to think about overriding state regulations "in the very foreseeable future". A sensitive post-war issue in the federal republic.


Why Germans understand the EU best

In Germany, there is commotion about a new book in which two journalists describe meetings held during the corona crisis between federal chancellor Angela Merkel, and the 16 prime ministers of its federal constituent states.

German Greens face reality check amid CDU gains

Armin Laschet, Angela Merkel's would-be-heir after German's September election, said he would prefer to govern with the liberals - as the Greens continued their slump in the polls.

Merkel 'open' to EU treaty change on health

Angela Merkel also said that the EU should better take into consideration the different experiences of eastern European countries - which are becoming increasingly confident and do not necessarily want an 'ever-closer union'.


Long ago, there was another Angela Merkel

There is one female leader in European history whom Merkel resembles much more than the fiery, authoritarian Catherine the Great, who once staged a coup with her lover against her husband. Instead, it is the Habsburg empress Maria-Theresia.


Orbán's 'revenge law' is an Orwellian crackdown on education

On Tuesday, the Hungarian parliament passed a troubling piece of legislation known by its critics as the 'revenge law', which aims to punish and intimidate teachers who dare to defy Viktor Orbán's regime. This law is a brutally oppressive tool.

Latest News

  1. EU warns of Russian 'mass manipulation' as elections loom
  2. Blocking minority of EU states risks derailing asylum overhaul
  3. Will Poles vote for the end of democracy?
  4. IEA says: Go green now, save €11 trillion later
  5. The failure of the Just Energy Transition Fund in South Africa
  6. EU and G7 tankers facilitating Russian oil exports, report finds
  7. EU trade chief in Beijing warns China of only 'two paths' forward
  8. Why should taxpayers pay for private fishing fleets in third countries?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  2. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  4. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us