Soeder Says Up to Merkel’s CDU to Decide Who Runs for Chancellor
(Bloomberg) -- Markus Soeder urged the leadership of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union to take a vote on who should lead her conservative bloc into September’s election and said he would accept the outcome as he sought to break a stalemate over the nomination.
Soeder heads the CDU’s smaller Bavarian sister party, the CSU, and has run an insurgent campaign to wrest the candidacy from CDU leader Armin Laschet. With polls showing Soeder would give the CDU/CSU a significant advantage with voters, officials and activists from Laschet’s party have been breaking ranks to back Soeder but Laschet has so far refused to capitulate.
Soeder rejected an invitation from Laschet to attend a CDU leadership meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday while calling on the party committee to settle the candidacy issue. “This is now a decision which the CDU will have to make,” Soeder told reporters in Munich. ”She is the bigger sister, and will always remain so, and so however it turns out there will be no resentment.”
With the Greens, the conservatives’ biggest election rivals, nominating 40-year-old Annalena Baerbock as their candidate earlier on Monday, Germany’s dominant political force risks losing further ground unless it can swiftly decide on who should head the ticket. Party leaders are concerned that the public battle between Soeder and Laschet will cost them votes in September.
Laschet said that at the Monday evening meeting he will make a proposal to “very swiftly” resolve the standoff and that he would be prepared to meet with the CSU leadership if needed.
“The goal is to win this election and that will only be possible with a great deal of unity and a single candidate,” Laschet told reporters outside the CDU’s national headquarters.
He referred to the CDU leadership unanimously backing his candidacy last week and said he hoped that a final decision could be made “very quickly this week,” indicating that the contest could still drag on for days. Both candidates had previously insisted the decision should be reached by last Friday.
Bavaria Premier Soeder has been trying to persuade CDU members that his ability to connect with voters makes him a better bet to hold on to the chancellery than Laschet, the party leader they elected barely three months ago.
If the bloc does back Soeder, it will mark a surprising departure for the alliance that has dominated German politics since World War II and could presage more dramatic shifts in the way the country is run. He’s seeking to get the bloc’s lawmakers in the Bundestag to vote on Tuesday, but Laschet’s camp may try to thwart the ballot, which isn’t binding.
The process looks even messier compared with the Greens, who announced Baerbock as their lead candidate in a smooth, well-orchestrated process with a minimum of fuss. The political scientist and foreign-policy expert made reference both to the “mudslinging” that has plagued the conservative chancellor nomination and to allegations that some lawmakers from Merkel’s bloc took advantage of the pandemic to enrich themselves via lucrative contracts for medical equipment.
“Trust in democracy, in politics as a whole is threatened,” she told reporters. “That is a great cause of concern to me.”
Soeder, 54, and Laschet, 60, talked for about three hours until around 2 a.m. Monday morning, according to a CDU party official. The meeting took place at a Bundestag office and other CDU and CSU leaders were present, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential matters. Soeder then returned to Bavaria.
Earlier Sunday, Laschet’s authority was further undermined when the CDU’s youth wing voted in favor of Soeder’s candidacy. Three of the CDU’s six state premiers -- from Saxony-Anhalt, Saarland and Saxony -- have broken ranks with the rest of the party leadership and put their weight behind the Bavarian.
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