Merkel Bloc Pitches Stability, Growth to Check German Greens

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc is pitching itself as the guarantor of German stability and affluence as it seeks to retain control of Europe’s largest economy.

The Christian Democrat-led group agreed Monday on broad goals to invest in technologies from artificial intelligence and quantum computing to hydrogen and solar power, while promoting growth. But the 139-page platform offered few specifics, basing its appeal to voters mainly around its track record as the dominant force in Merkel-led governments for 16 years.

“We want to make our country faster, more efficient, more digital,” CDU Chairman Armin Laschet, who is running to replace Merkel for the conservative alliance, said in Berlin. “We combine consistent climate protection with economic strength and social security.”

Laschet appeared alongside Bavaria Premier Markus Soeder, whom he beat to win the nomination. The joined presentation was intended as a show of unity after a bitter fight for the candidacy, which had led to a slump in the polls.

Merkel Bloc Pitches Stability, Growth to Check German Greens

Since then, Laschet has emerged as the clear front-runner to succeed Merkel after the bloc regained the lead over the Green party, which has focused its campaign on pledges to step up the fight against climate change.

Laschet earlier this month helped the CDU secure a decisive victory in Germany’s poorest state, winning the most votes in Saxony-Anhalt while keeping the far-right AfD at bay as the Greens ended up a distant sixth. The CDU/CSU leads the Green party nationally by around eight percentage points with just over three months left until the Sept. 26 vote.

The CDU and its Bavarian sister party are ruling out tax increases and want to ease the burden on low- and middle-income earners, while scrapping a levy originally introduced to pay for the reconstruction of the former communist East. They also intend to cap taxes on corporate profit at 25%. Meanwhile, they commit to Germany’s constitutional limits on borrowing, enshrined in the so-called “debt brake.”

The financial constraints make it unclear how the group proposes to fund the overhaul of the German economy. By contrast, the Greens are proposing higher taxes on the wealthy and a constitutional change to allow for more debt to fund a 10-year, 500 billion-euro ($595 billion) investment program.

“I am firmly convinced that Germans don’t trust the Greens with the chancellery,” said Soeder, head of the CSU, adding that the bloc wants to protect the climate without endangering jobs and raising taxes.

Merkel Bloc Pitches Stability, Growth to Check German Greens

The conservatives are focusing instead on promoting more growth in the private sector, and propose setting up a German or European stock exchange for home-grown technology startups.

Germany needs to become more nimble and help its economy by cutting red tape to compete with the likes of China and global tech companies such as Google, Inc. and Tesla Inc., Laschet said.

Merkel told party officials at a meeting Monday that it’s vital for the election program to address what she called “epochal change,” according to a person familiar with her comments who asked not to be identified. Europe needs to do more to address the challenge from China and to keep pace with the U.S. in areas like quantum computing, chip production and battery research, she said.

“We want Germany to enter warp speed” in terms of technological innovation, said Soeder, adding that any tension between him and Laschet has been resolved. “Together, we’re going to rock.”

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