More in Merkel’s Party Want Soeder as Chancellor, Spiegel Reports

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An increasing number of lawmakers from Angela Merkel’s party want Bavaria Premier Markus Soeder to be the conservative bloc’s candidate to replace the German chancellor when she steps aside after September’s election, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

Soeder is the head of the Bavarian CSU, the sister party to Merkel’s CDU in the southern state, and is more popular nationally than Armin Laschet, the new CDU chairman who also wants to run as chancellor for the Sept. 26 vote. His bid has faltered as public discontent with the government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic intensifies.

“Markus Soeder should be our chancellor candidate,” Spiegel quoted CDU lawmaker Markus Gruebel as saying. “With him, we have a better chance of winning the election,” Gruebel added. “He has more trust among the population, appears statesmanlike and has shown that he is on a clear course on key issues such as climate protection.”

Laschet has said a decision on who will run will be made by late May, but pressure is building to speed up the process with the conservative CDU/CSU bloc slumping in opinion polls and the Greens closing the gap in second place.

Traditionally, the CDU has fielded the conservative group’s chancellor candidate, and both times a CSU member ran -- Franz Josef Strauss in 1980 and Edmund Stoiber in 2002 -- they were unsuccessful.

An infratest dimap survey for broadcaster ARD published Thursday showed that Soeder’s approval rating held at 54, cementing his position as the country’s second-most popular politician behind Merkel on 58. Laschet’s rating slumped nine points compared with the previous month to 26, well behind the Social Democrat chancellor candidate, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, on 40.

More than half of those surveyed think Soeder would be a good chancellor candidate, compared with 19% for Laschet, the poll of 1,348 voters conducted March 29-30 showed.

Spiegel quoted Marian Wendt, a CDU lawmaker from Saxony, as saying that Soeder should get the nomination. “Together with Armin Laschet as CDU chairman, we then have a strong team for the federal election,” he told the magazine.

The CDU crashed to its worst results since World War II in state elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate last month, weakening Laschet.

He has recently tried to differentiate himself from Merkel, with the two clashing over how to deal with the pandemic. Merkel criticized him and other regional leaders for not enforcing Covid-19 restrictions strictly enough, while he warned the chancellor not to impose central control on pandemic policy.

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