German conservatives in search of a successor to Angela Merkel

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Who to succeed Angela Merkel? Favorite of the polls, his conservative party is struggling to bring out an indisputable candidate and is organizing a debate on Saturday to decide between three contenders, whose campaign is shaken by the pandemic.

The moderate Armin Laschet, the liberal Friedrich Merz and the former minister Norbert Röttgen will try to score points before the appointment, at the congress of the Christian-conservative party CDU in early December, of a new leader.

The winner is expected to be the right-wing candidate in the legislative elections scheduled for no later than October 2021, after which Merkel is due to step down after 16 years in the chancellery.

A time considered as the dauphine of Merkel, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer decided in February to leave the head of the CDU, for lack of authority over its troops.

The search for a favorite is all the more difficult as the Chancellor, who is ruling out running for a fifth term, is riding record popularity, reinforced by her good management of the COVID-19 crisis.

This health theme has eclipsed all the others, making the campaign for his succession hardly audible. Activist rallies and field trips are mostly canceled. Saturday night's debate, hosted by the CDU youth movement, will take place online, without an audience.

The Chancellor herself did not interfere in the internal affairs of her party and did not support any of the candidates.

Little enthusiasm for the suitors

Angela Merkel had to put things right several times and recall that she would not be truly not candidate. An insistence symptomatic of the lack of enthusiasm aroused in the polls by the three candidates in the running.

In a popularity survey for the post of chancellor published on Friday, Armin Laschet (59), leader of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, and Friedrich Merz (64) are neck and neck, but without collecting more than 27% positive opinions.

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At the head of the most populous region of Germany, but also the most affected by the epidemic, Mr. Laschet pays for his will at the beginning of the summer to deconfin too quickly to restart the economy.

Since then, the one who follows on from Ms. Merkel has been more discreet and relies on the support provided by Jens Spahn, Minister of Health who has gained notoriety thanks to the health crisis.

In the absence of an elective mandate, Friedrich Merz, little appreciated by Angela Merkel, remains difficult to hear. His ultraliberal positions have also put him out of step with the massive aid decided by the government to help the economy face the crisis.

Former Minister of the Environment, specialist in international issues, Norbert Röttgen is struggling to get out of his image as an expert, without relay in the party.

For everyday Tagesspiegel, this debate risks not to clarify the situation within the CDU.

And the NTV news site to add: Laschet too unpopular, Merz character from the past, Röttgen without support – the CDU is not exactly euphoric about its candidates for the presidency of the party.

The three are seated and Mr. Müller is turned to Ms. Merkel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder, right, at a press conference following a meeting of heads of state on the pandemic in Berlin, October 14, 2020.

Photo: pool / afp via getty images / STEFANIE LOOS

Markus Söder could confuse the issue

Consequence: even once appointed, the official candidate of the CDU could see his plans thwarted by Markus Söder, 53, minister-president of Bavaria and president of CSU, Bavarian sister party of the party of Merkel.

If he repeats not to consider leaving his lands in southern Germany, he is clearly ahead in the polls other contenders on the right, environmentalists or on the left in the race for the chancellery. It collects 52% positive opinions in the latest survey for the ARD channel.

He is taking advantage, coincidentally of the calendar, of his provisional functions as president of the conference of the German regions, sitting alongside Merkel at each press conference devoted to the virus.

The Conservatives are also taking advantage of the lack of competition in the race for the chancellery: the official candidate of the Social Democrats, the current Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz, is entangled in a fraud scandal, while environmentalists and the extreme right seem to penalty on issues related to the health crisis.

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