Two weeks before the election, the German Christian Democrats of the CDU/CSU are in a state of panic. Chancellor Merkels party is worse than ever in the polls. The party fluctuates between 20 and 25 percent. Two months ago, that was ten percentage points more. Meanwhile, the campaign of leader Armin Laschet doesnt seem to catch up and the backlog is growing on the Social Democratic SPD, with the popular leader Olaf Scholz.
Whats going on with the last great peoples party in Europe? Is it the popularity of Laschet – the lack of it? In the polls, he invariably dangles at the bottom. Germans simply dont see Chancellor in him: too little profile, no charisma. He is also controversial within his own party.
At the beginning of this year, Laschet came out as a winner in a battle for the leadership. Challenger Markus Söder (from the Bavarian sister party CSU) openly said that he thought Laschet would not be able to win elections and many parties agreed with that.
Error of Judgement
That overt power struggle has certainly not done the CDU/CSU any good. Yet experts agree: Laschet isnt the only problem. According to Robin Alexander, political reporter for Die Welt and Merkel-watcher newspaper, the CDU made a serious mistake of judgment thinking that Merkel voters would stay with the party. “But people really voted for the CDU/CSU specifically because of Merkel, they liked her,” says Alexander.
With the voters revisiting the party with the election coming up, it is not going to work out well. According to Alexander, the CDU/CSU was eroded after sixteen years of Merkel. “It has become a club officials who performs what Merkel tells them. The party program didnt matter anymore. There was no more debating. They dont have any new ideas. And for that they are now presented with the bill.”
The candidates of the other parties, Annalena Baerbock van Die Grünen and SPDer Scholz, are now also trying to “lure” the floating Merkel voter by pointing out the things they have in common with the Chancellor.
Alexander calls it a “Merkel lookalike-match.” Baerbock hopes to catch the voters who voted for Merkel for being a woman, Scholz leaves no chance unused to say he has always worked well with Merkel, as her finance minister and deputy chancellor. He even took the picture in Merkels signature posture, with his hands in a window pane.
Over the past few weeks, the pressure on Laschet has grown to adapt its strategy. In the German media, the CDU campaign has been renamed “sleeper car with which they thought they would drive into Kanzleramt without any problems”. Not a day goes by or Laschet presents new plans or new teams with which he wants to shape future policies.
Laschets tone has also become brighter. In a debate last night, he immediately launched a frontal attack on Scholz, due to a money laundering case for which the SPDer may be responsible.
Whether this attack is still on time? Alexander doesnt take any predictions, but says: Laschet has made a comeback more often. “Hes also compared to a boxer, who can get a lot of blows without falling over. If someone can come up with a last-minute surprise, its Laschet.”