After a power struggle of more than a week, the German Christian Democrats have a leader for the forthcoming election campaign. In the end, the choice fell on the leader of the CDU, Armin Laschet. His challenger Markus Söder, leader of the Bavarian sister party CSU, abides by the decision of the CDU board.
“ The die has been cast, Armin Laschet is our Kanzlerkandidat,” said Söder at the beginning of the afternoon. The open showdown between the two has greatly damaged the already not too good image of Laschet and the party.
you ask the German people, the answer is clear: with Markus Söder as the leader, the Union, as CDU and CSU are called together, would be much more likely to win the elections. Week after week, there have been polls in recent times confirming the popularity of Söder and the aversion of Laschet only intensified.
Choice for Söder had increased damage
Söder is seen as a strong leader, especially due to his rectilinear coronation policy, his firm performances and clear slogans. Laschet, on the other hand, gets a lot of criticism of his mopping ideas and approach to the coronacrisis. One minute he wants to ease, then he urges another to make a more stringent lockdown. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the state where he is Prime Minister, support for him fell to a low point.
Then why did it become Laschet? The answer to this question may not be very flattering for the politician. A choice for Söder would have harmed the party too much. Laschet was only elected CDU leader in January after a long internal battle. If he were to be pushed aside again – through some sort of coup by Söder – then the party would have been huge loss of face. It would undermine the authority and power of the CDU summit, which joined Laschet.
Of course, Laschet also has its strengths. He has proven several times that he can win elections, even if he is in bad shape in the polls. In 2017, he defeated the popular SPD candidate in his state, and his opponent Friedrich Merz seemed more popular in the recent election.
Laschet is able to deliver at crucial times. He convinced the CDU members with a strong and emotional speech about his father, a miner, and about trust. His father had given him advice, said Laschet: “Underground it doesn‘t matter where you come from, the most important thing is: can I rely on you if things go wrong? Tell people they can rely on you.”
The 60-year-old Laschet is an incorrigible optimist and cannot be knocked out of the field. On the bad polls: “Everyone can name dozens of examples of how polls turn at the last moment.” This week, too, he got so much criticism about him, and everyone else would probably have been discouraged. Weekblad Der Spiegel described him as the Rocky Balboa of German politics.
He’s going to need this optimism in the next few hours when cleaning up debris. In the past week, many parliamentarians and local CDU people have indicated that they have little faith in Laskett‘s ability to attract voters. Some have even said they wouldn’t campaign for him. He has to convince people inside and outside the party that he does have it in him.
The question is also whether he can expect much opposition from Söder. The Bavarian Prime Minister has clearly stated that he will join Laschet ‘without resentment’ and that the unity of the party is now more important. But will he remain as supportive if the CDU/CSU and Laschet polls remain bad? A CSU politician has already been denied today that ‘if we lose these elections, it is the responsibility of the CDU government’.
Great contrast with Greens
Since yesterday, Laschet also has a formidable opponent in the leader of the Greens: Annalena Baerbock. That party ranks second in the 20 to 22 percent polls, 7 to 8 percentage points behind the CDU/CSU. A contrast is already striking: the Greens, as a former party of rebels and activists, presented Kanzlerkandidat Baerbock seemingly in harmony and without damaging internal struggle.